New Brunswick

Miramichi Lake cottagers told rotenone spraying will happen Wednesday

Chemical spraying of Miramichi Lake could begin Wednesday, according to an email obtained from cottagers on the lake sent by the group hoping the spray will eradicate smallmouth bass.

Group wants to use chemical to kill invasive smallmouth bass in the Miramichi watershed

The group that wants to spray the pesticide rotenone on Miramichi Lake hopes to get the effort underway Wednesday, according to an email received by cottagers. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Cottagers on Miramichi Lake have been told that chemical spraying to get rid of smallmouth bass will begin Wednesday.

An email was sent to the cottagers by Neville Crabbe, spokesperson for the Working Group on Smallmouth Bass Eradication in the Miramichi.

"Signs have been posted stating the smallmouth project will commence on August 10th," the email said.

Movement in and out of the project area will be restricted, the email said, so "people wishing to leave are advised to do so." 

Crabbe, who is with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, did not respond to emails or phone calls requesting an interview about the details of the group's plans.

Women stopped project once

Salmon conservation groups have been concerned that a growing population of smallmouth bass in Miramichi Lake, Lake Brook and a portion of the Southwest Miramichi River is threatening Atlantic salmon as well as brook trout native to the waters.

The spraying of the pesticide rotenone received official approval and was set to happen last August, but grandmothers and mothers from Wolastoqey First Nations were concerned about the environmental impact. They began paddling on the lake, which prevented the spraying

This year, the smallmouth bass eradication group said it were determined to carry out the spraying this summer.

The women opposed to the rotenone spraying have said they intend to be on the lake again to stop it, but the women could not be reached Tuesday to talk about their plans.

Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation released a statement on behalf of the North Shore Micmac District Council in support of the chemical spraying of the watershed. 

And in an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, he confirmed the spraying effort could happen as early as Wednesday.

He said it was discouraging the project didn't go forward last year since a lot of work went into it. 

Asked about the opposition coming from the Wolastoqey mothers and grandmothers, Ginnish said there are people who believe "there would be repercussions beyond what the intent of the treatment is meant to be."

But he said the watershed will be changed forever if the project is delayed. 

Chief George Ginnish said it was discouraging when the chemical spraying of Miramichi Lake didn’t go forward last year. (CBC)

"The plan is that it's going to happen there, the permits have been issued, the work has all been done and the people are in place," he said. "And I know that it would really demoralize them if this were to be interrupted or delayed."

Ginnish acknowledged the cottage owners, who he said believe spraying will hinder their enjoyment of the lake, but he said, "this issue is much larger than that."

Miramichi Lake cottage owner Daniel Houghton said enjoyment is only one factor in his opposition to rotenone spraying. He fears an "environmental disaster" and is concerned about the safety of his children.

Houghton said the shallow sandy-bottom lake with no drop-offs or currents is the perfect place for his three kids under 10 years old to play in. 

Concerned about lake of dead fish

"Regardless of whatever analyses are done after the fact, I'm never going to be in the same state of mind that I am right now, where I know that they're OK to be able to get water," he said. 

He said it isn't just the rotenone, he worries about, but the dead fish it would leave behind. 

He said the working group doing the spraying has admitted most of the fish that are killed by the rotenone will stay below the surface.

He said cottagers, including himself, hired a lawyer, who filed for an injunction on Aug. 2. Houghton said the court date to hear the application was set for Aug. 17 but he still received the email at 8:25 a.m. Tuesday, stating the spray would take place the next day.

"They're not even stopping for like, you know, a legal proceeding," said Houghton. 

Corrections

  • ​An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the legal action a cottager said was launched to try to stop the spraying. It should have said the cottagers' lawyer filed for an injunction, according to Daniel Houghton.
    Aug 10, 2022 5:49 PM AT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hannah Rudderham is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick. She grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and moved to Fredericton to go to St. Thomas University in 2018. She recently graduated with a bachelor of arts in journalism. You can send story tips to hannah.rudderham@cbc.ca.

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