Committee formed to protect Trout River from fish kills

The provincial government is setting up a committee to look at making new guidelines to protect Island rivers from future fish kills.
A committee has been formed to try and prevent future fish kills in Trout River. (Submitted by Roseanne MacFarlane)

The provincial government is setting up a committee to help prevent fish kills in Island rivers.

A new action community has been formed, with representatives from farmers, watershed groups and government, Environment, Labour and Justice Minister Janice Sherry announced Monday.

The committee will look at ways to protect the Trout River Watershed where fish kills happened two years in a row.

"In order to reduce the chance of future kills, we are asking people with expertise in land use, in agricultural practices and in water protection to look at our current protection measures and land use practices and to recommend ways they can be changed and strengthened to protect the water and wildlife resources that belong to all Islanders," Sherry said in a news release.

Currently, there’s a 15-metre buffer between farm land and waterways across P.E.I., and the committee will look at how well the buffers work at preventing runoff.

"While current land management plans are protecting most of the land in Prince Edward Island, it’s clear that some areas are more vulnerable than others," said Dale Cameron, a member of Trout Unlimited Prince County Chapter, in the release.

The committee will also look at agricultural practices further upland.

The group will come back with recommendations in September, that could be in place for next year’s growing season.

The departments of Environment and Agriculture will look at using the template for other watersheds.

Meanwhile, a new charge has been laid against Prince County potato grower Warren Ellis in connection with last year's fish kill in the Trout River watershed.

The charge — under the federal Fisheries Act — alleges Ellis allowed a deleterious substance into water some time between July 21 and 23 last year.

Thousands of dead fish were found in the Trout River watershed over that weekend.

Previously, Ellis and another farmer were charged with violating provincial buffer zone regulations.

Those charges against Ellis were dismissed.

He is scheduled to appear in Summerside provincial court on Sept. 4 on the new charge.