Nova Scotia

Group wants DFO to fix fish ladder

People who live in Harmony Mills, Queens County, want something done to fix an old fish ladder in their area.

Fish getting caught inside

People who live in Harmony Mills, Queens County, want something done to fix an old fish ladder in their area.

Fish travelling to breeding grounds are getting stuck in the fish ladder because it's in such bad shape. (CBC)
The structure is in such terrible shape fish such as trout and suckers have been getting caught in it and dying.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans was in to make some minor repairs this week but there's no plan in place to rebuild the old structure.

A fish ladder is a structure built on or around artificial barriers to help fish migrate to breeding grounds. Most fish ladders help fish to pass around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps into the waters on the other side.

Louis Wamboldt, president of Queens County Fish and Game Association has been coming a couple of times a week to check the condition of fish that have been getting caught in the Harmony Lake fish ladder.

Beaver dam debris also gets caught in the ladder, plugging up holes that allow fish to move through.

Louis Wamboldt comes to the Harmony Lake fish ladder a few times a week to check the condition of the fish stuck in the structure, which is falling apart. (CBC)
In the last few weeks dozens of fish have died. The live fish Wamboldt has been pulling out are in rough shape.

"This one also has parasites, you can see the red spots," said Wamboldt."You can see the particular lesion under this fin."

The rough condition of the fish ladder is having an impact on other wildlife in the area.

"Several times we have had live and dead beavers and snapping turtles and painted turtles in here. Sometimes I contacted Natural Resources and they removed some, others I removed myself," said Wamboldt.

Ladder is 15 years old

The wooden fish ladder was built 15 years ago by the Friends of Harmony Lake Society, a group that has now disbanded.

For the last six years, the Queens County Fish and Game Association has been trying to get DFO to either fix the ladder or build a new one.

"It's been a good number of years," said David Dagley, secretary for the association. "We raised the issue quite strenuously in 2005 and wrote the regional director in 2006 and have raised it yearly since then. This year it really got to a critical stage where we've had fish trapped and it's a major issue right now."

This week DFO did block off the top of the ladder so water can't make its way in because it's in such bad shape, with hopes the fish wouldn't go near it.

But the repair has left the fish stuck in a stream at the bottom the ladder. They're now unable to make their way up to their spawning grounds at the lake.

"So there's three issues: rectify the beaver stick problem, rebuild the structure and cover the structure over to eliminate mammals getting in."

DFO is not committing to any more work to the fish ladder and have told CBC News they are assessing the situation.