Calgary-based Suncor was fined $200,000 after pleading guilty to charges under the federal Fisheries Act. (CBC)

Oilsands giant Suncor has been fined $200,000 for dumping material harmful to fish into a northern Alberta river.

Suncor Energy Inc. was fined Tuesday after pleading guilty to charges under the federal Fisheries Act.

Environment Canada says the fine was for the release of effluent in 2008 from sediment ponds built as part of Suncor operations near the Steepbank River north of Fort McMurray.

The material in the water was clay and other natural materials and did not include oilsands or tailings pond effluent, Environment Canada spokesman Mike Bell said Wednesday.

"It was total suspended solids — matter suspended in water," Bell said. "It is deleterious to fish because it interrupts their respiration and can impact habitat as well."

Much of the fine is to be paid into the federal government's Environmental Damages Fund.

Suncor said it accepts full responsibility for what happened and reached an agreement with the federal Crown on the fine.

"We certainly regret that this incident happened," Suncor spokesman Brad Bellows said.

"We are happy that there was no impact to the environment. But the fact remains that we didn't meet regulatory standards."

The fine was imposed the same day that Ottawa promised to improve oilsands environmental monitoring after a report said there were "significant shortcomings" in the current system.