P.E.I. fish kill larger than initial estimates

A freshwater biologist says the number of dead fish collected is significantly greater than last year, even though the length of the stream affected is smaller.
The government has collected 1,800 dead fish from the river so far. (Rosanne MacFarlane)

A fish kill in Trout River is now being called a complete kill, as scientists have discovered the incident is more severe than initially thought.

"Everything in the area is dead," said Todd Dupuis of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

The river was also hit with a fish kill last year. Rosanne MacFarlane, a freshwater biologist with the province, said the number of dead fish collected is significantly greater than last year, even though a smaller portion of the river is affected.

On a careful count of the fish collected Sunday night, MacFarlane found 1,459 fish had been collected: 1,317 trout, 20 salmon, and 122 sticklebacks. That did not include a section in Barclay Brook. MacFarlane adds that as the days pass, the chances of finding fish decreases because they are taken by predators and get buried in the mud.

"For every fish you pick up, you usually miss four or five," said Dupuis. "So you're probably looking in the 10,000 fish range."

Dupuis said this situation is also different because they found dead sticklebacks among the trout and salmon.

"They can survive in very low oxygen and very hot water temperatures. When you start finding these stickleback dead, you know it was likely a fairly toxic event."

Previous fish kill on same river

Tens of thousands of fish died last year in the fish kill that affected three rivers.

"Last year's kill was - there were probably four to five hundred fish - but the majority of them were 12 inches and over," said Dale Cameron with Trout Unlimited. "This year, it was more representative of all age classes, and unfortunately, there were also a couple dozen salmon parr in among those as well."

Cameron discovered the kill this week and has been on the scene ever since.

"During the clean up, I never saw a live fish. That disturbs me a little bit."

This recent incident occurred after heavy rain on Wednesday night that washed soil into the river. On Friday, MacFarlane described the river as being murky because of the amount of the red soil.

The provincial government is collecting samples to analyze the water. The clean up is scheduled to end on Monday.

Trout River was restocked with thousands of fish just one week before the incident.