O’LEARY – What could be the first large scale fish kill of the year is under investigation by the provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Dale Cameron discovered the animals in Barclay Brook, a tributary of the Trout River, on Friday.
Cameron, project co-ordinator for Trout Unlimited in Prince County, checks his area’s waterways after every major rainfall.
“I saw that the fish were having some difficulty,” said Cameron, recalling the scene.
In total, Cameron and officials from the province’s Forest, Fish and Wildlife Division recovered about 100 dead fish from the brook on Friday and Saturday.
Officials have said in the past that whenever there is a fish kill the actual number of dead animals is usually several times what is recovered as the corpses are eaten by predators or washed down stream.
The frequency of these events is starting to become alarming, commented Shawn Hill, executive director of the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance.
“Unfortunately they are seemingly an annual event now,” said Hill. “All the watershed groups across the Island are disappointed. (Agricultural) producers are disappointed. It’s just bad news all around.”
He held off on making any other comment until test results have been returned.
“We’re going to wait and see what comes of it,” added Hill. “We’re fairly certain as to what caused it, but we don’t know anything definitive yet.”
Ken Mayhew, a spokesman for the department, stated on Saturday that an investigation into the deaths is now underway and that more information should be available by Monday.
Officials won’t know for sure what killed the fish until then, though the Barclay Brook had major fish kills in both 2012 and 2011. Thousands of fish, including salmon, trout and sticklebacks, were killed in those incidents.
“At this point we don’t actually have a cause, but there really was heavy rains up there and that tends to be a trigger for them,” said Mayhew.
Fish kills are usually caused by soil washing into rivers, bringing silt and various toxins to the environment.
Rivers can also go anoxic, which is when oxygen levels drop due excess plant life, choking out the fish. These events can be caused when nitrogen-rich fertilizer seeps into the water.
While it’s unclear exactly what happened in this instance, Cameron is sure of on one point: Island rivers continue to be at risk from these events.
“People take for granted the value of the natural capital that we have here on P.E.I.,” said Cameron.
“But it’s getting to the point where we can’t always take it for granted.”
Cameron was part of a committee that tabled a report earlier this year on the 2012 Barclay Brook fish kills.
He said it is time the recommendations made in that report were put into action.
“There’s reports upon reports upon reports sitting on shelves somewhere with all kinds of recommendations on them. It’s time to start relooking at these recommendations and doing something about them instead of just doing lip service to them.”