Nova Scotia

How to save an endangered fish? Eat their enemies, say N.S. conservation groups

Conservation groups are encouraging Nova Scotians to chow down on smallmouth bass and chain pickerel in hopes of saving the nearly extinct Atlantic whitefish.

Groups want Nova Scotians to get a taste for smallmouth bass and chain pickerel

Estimates say there are only several hundred Atlantic whitefish remaining in the wild, all of which are in Nova Scotia. (Bob Semple/www.hww.ca)

Conservation groups in Nova Scotia are working to save the nearly extinct Atlantic whitefish by serving up the invasive species threatening it.

"One of the several threats facing the Atlantic whitefish is the introduction of aquatic invasive species," Katie McLean, the program manager for the Clean Annapolis River Project, told CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax on Friday.

"In this case, it's smallmouth bass and chain pickerel."

Smallmouth bass and chain pickerel are invasive predators species that have been threatening the whitefish for years. Whitefish can now only be found in three lakes outside Bridgewater.

Chain pickerel is an invasive species that has infested the Petite Rivière lake system in Lunenburg County. (Robert Short/CBC)

McLean estimates there are only several hundred Atlantic whitefish, an ancient relative of salmon, remaining in the wild.

"It's something that's been dire for years," she said. "There's still a chance to help, but we need to start really focusing on it now."

That's why the Clean Annapolis River Project and several other environmental groups will be celebrating Atlantic Whitefish Day on Saturday.

The event, meant to raise awareness about Atlantic whitefish, will feature activities and presentations for all ages at the Petite Rivière fire hall.

The public is invited to attend and asked to bring their appetite for smallmouth bass and chain pickerel.

"One of the things we'll do is have samples of recipes prepared with [the] invasive species," McLean said.  "One of our hopes is to encourage people across the province to retain their invasive fish and make the best use of them possible by eating them."

McLean said the invasive fish will be served in the form of fish cakes and chowder, and recipes will be distributed so people can make the dishes at home.

She's hopeful Nova Scotians will develop a taste for the invasive species — especially chain pickerel, which has a bag limit of 100 — and start fishing them from the aquatic ecosystems they've been damaging.

Smallmouth bass will be served in the form of fish cakes and chowder at the celebration on Saturday. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

"That's a move that in part has been made to encourage retention and acknowledge the threat that those species have to our native [fish]," she said.

McLean said Nova Scotians have a responsibility to protect aquatic environments since many rely on the fishing industry. 

She said people can help by keeping waterways clean and by documenting invasive species and reporting any sightings of Atlantic whitefish.

Saturday's event will also have several displays and presentations from Coastal Action and the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute. It starts at 10:30 a.m. AT.

with files from CBC Radio's Information Morning

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