PEI

New equipment allows virtually constant monitoring of fish habitat

If a pilot project continues to go well, P.E.I. should have a much better idea over the next few years what the impact is of actions it is taking to improve fish habitat.

Sensors still being evaluated

The new sensors measure sediment in streams — sediment which can damage the gills of fish, make hunting more difficult for predatory species and clog up spawning beds. (Annette Shaff/Shutterstock)

If a pilot project continues to go well, P.E.I. should have a much better idea over the next few years what the impact is of actions it is taking to improve fish habitat.

New sensors measure sediment in streams — sediment which can damage the gills of fish, make hunting more difficult for predatory species and clog up spawning beds.

The old-school method for measuring sediment in streams was to collect water samples and take them to a lab where the sediment would be filtered out, dried and weighed. It cost $12 a sample, not counting the labour to collect the samples.

Last year the Environment Department installed an acoustic sensor in the Wilmot River. It generates a ping that bounces off the sediment suspended in the stream. The more sediment there is in the stream, the louder the sound that returns to the sensor.

The sensor cost $11,000 to install, and returns 35,000 results a year.

Watershed groups spend a great deal of time and effort doing stream enhancement.— Bruce Raymond, Environment Department

"The new equipment is instantaneous and by the sample is far cheaper than analyzing the number of water samples that this equipment could deliver in the run of a year," Bruce Raymond, manager of the water and air monitoring section for the Department of Environment, told Island Morning's Laura Chapin.

"We haven't had, in the past, the ability to have a really good understanding of the amount of suspended sediment that's slowing down in P.E.I. streams. It's just prohibitive to be able to get it."

A second sensor was installed in Bear River this year as part of the pilot project.

As P.E.I. works to improve river environments, this new technology will provide the data to help the Department of Environment understand what's working and what isn't.

"Watershed groups spend a great deal of time and effort doing stream enhancement to try to move sediment out of streams," said Raymond.

The data gathered, once deployed in streams across the province, should also help determine the best ways to keep sediment out of streams, whether it comes from agriculture, construction sites or unpaved roads.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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