Nova Scotia

Avon River floodgates block spawning fish, say protesters

People in Windsor, N.S. are concerned that fish on the Avon River will die before getting the chance to spawn because of closed floodgates blocking the gaspereau from reaching spawning grounds.

Gaspereau trapped on the wrong side of floodgates from spawning grounds

Birds in the area have been taking advantage of the bounty, feasting on the trapped gaspereau. (CBC)

People in Windsor, N.S. are concerned that fish on the Avon River will die before getting the chance to spawn because of closed floodgates blocking the gaspereau from reaching spawning grounds.

Flood gates that control water flow under a causeway near Windsor mean the fish are trapped and cannot reach the place where their instincts are directing them.

Gaspereau, also known as the alewife, are small silvery fish with a greyish-green back and a single black spot behind the gill cover. They are usually less than 30 centimetres long. Their flesh is sweet, firm and white, though rather bony.

On Friday, a small group of protesters say they went to the causeway to speak for the fish. RCMP were on scene, concerned the protesters were distracting drivers.

"This has been going on for several years. The gates aren’t being opened at the proper time when the fish start heading in to go up the river to spawn, " said protester Marilyn Roberts.

Trevor Avery, an adjunct professor at Acadia University, said this is a problem that can be fixed by simply linking the schedule of when the floodgates open to the time the fish need to move upstream to spawn.

"You have a high density of fish trying to get up to the spawning grounds and they are driven by that need to spawn and if they don’t get up there, then they are just going to die," he said.

Birds in the area have been taking advantage of the bounty, feasting on the trapped fish.

The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture controls the floodgates, which are set up on an automatic timer based on water levels. An official with the department said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has approved the method currently in place.

Darren Porter, a commercial fisherman on the river, said there is no evidence to say when the doors should be opened or closed.

"Everybody at fisheries will argue, ‘Well these closures, well that’s okay, every other tide, it’s okay, four times a week,’ Is it? There has been no science done on that to say if that’s okay, there’s no theses done on that, there’s no masters degree on that, there’s nothing. That’s just somebody saying, ‘That’s okay,’" he said.

The people who are concerned about the fish say since there is no good science to determine how many fish should be allowed to get upriver, the gates should be opened when the fish begin the swim upstream.

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