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Freshwater Fish Habitat

We have a number of projects and initiatives focused on restoring, enhancing and maintaining freshwater fish habitat in the Annapolis River watershed. 

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Freshwater fish habitat restoration

One of our largest areas of work involves the assessment, restoration/enhancement, and monitoring of freshwater habitats for aquatic species. 

Restoration work involves making physical changes to the landscape, in order to return it to a more natural state, or to bring back natural functions that have been altered by human activities. 

The installation of culverts or dams is a common action that leads to the alteration of fish habitat. Improper installation can cause a barrier to fish migration, cutting them off from upstream habitat. Clearing blocked culverts and installing fishways are two types of restoration work used to address this issue. 

De-vegetation of streamside habitat is another common issue on the Annapolis River. Trees and shrubs provide shade, which helps regulate water temperature, which fish such as brook trout are very sensitive to. By re-vegetating rivers and streams we can create suitable fish habitat. Plants will also help in preventing soil erosion, and aid in filtering water. 

To learn more, check out our past project reports

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FINS- Fishing for Info Nova Scotia

Our citizen science angling program was initially developed to support ongoing monitoring and potential early detection of aquatic invasive species (AIS), and the general collection of data to help inform fisheries management and conservation initiatives.  Additionally, the program helps to flag any observation of species-at-risk, so that this information can be made available to fisheries managers and conservation practitioners. 

 

Each volunteer is asked to visit the same site(s) on a repeated basis; this means visiting multiple times each fishing season, and visiting the same site each year. Anglers will record and report on species caught/observed and provide reports to the program coordinator at the end of the season. In the case the AIS are detected, this information will immediately be reported to NS Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The FINS program is partnering with Anglers Atlas to allow for participants to share data using the MyCatch app. For those who prefer more traditional paper and pencil logs, we can provide physical angler diaries. 

To join the FINS program, visit the registration page here

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Aquatic invasive species

An invasive alien species is one introduced outside its normal distribution, whose establishment and spread can affect ecosystems, habitats, or other species.

The two aquatic AIS in freshwater ecosystems of greatest concern in Nova Scotia are the Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu).

In an effort to address the growing threat of AIS in the context of fish passage improvement initiatives, CARP, in partnership with the NSSA through its Adopt a Stream Program, has developed this decision-making framework to guide managers in the planning and prioritization of aquatic connectivity improvement projects in the Nova Scotia context. The aim of this framework is to have a practical way of assessing the risk of isolation (i.e. maintaining, improving, or developing fish exclusion barriers) vs. invasion (i.e. providing or improving fish passage at current anthropogenic barrier sites) at current barrier sites.

You can access the tool here. You can find a recorded presentation about the tool here. 

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Sub-watershed management plans

To address the issues leading to ecological degredation in the Annapolis River watershed, we target work based on smaller, sub-watershed management units. Sub-watershed management plans guide future implementation of restoration and habitat enhancement actions, and allow priority sub-watersheds to be targeted.

Data collected from in-field monitoring and assessments is compiled, along with other background information acquired from literature reviews and surveys of available geo-spatial information. This information, combined with local ecological knowledge, provides a starting point for prioritizing areas for restoration activities.

Sub-watershed plans are working documents that will receive continuous updates as more information becomes available, and as restoration actions are completed.

CARP has completed sub-watershed plans for the Nictaux and Moose River subwatersheds, partially completed plans for the Round Hill River and Fales River and has recently initiated developing plans for Roxbury Brook and Black River. 

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Species-at-risk

The Annapolis River watershed supports a number of aquatic species-at-risk. These include:

  • Atlantic salmon, southern upland population (COSEWIC Endangered, SARA No status)

  • American Eel (COSEWIC Threatened)

  • Atlantic sturgeon (COSEWIC Threatened, under consideration for SARA Schedule 1 listing)

  • Striped bass (COSEWIC Endangered)

Many of our projects focus on addressing local threats to these species. To learn more about work related to the Annapolis Estuary, check out the project page

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Local ecological knowledge

Local anglers and other recreational users hold a wealth of knowledge about the rivers and species they fish. Anglers are often the people who interact most with fish and the habitats that support them. We are currently seeking anglers who are interested in sharing their knowledge with us. This knowledge might include where species were caught in the past and at present, where certain species are no longer found, and how river conditions have changed over time. 

Community members also have many great ideas about how to approach projects and the areas where work is needed is most. We want to establish a dialogue with community members so that we can exchange information, and work cooperatively to accomplish projects that are of mutual benefit.

Threats to aquatic habitats

Habitat fragmentation

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1. Non-fragmented habitat
2/3. Fragmented habitat

Fragmentation of fish habitat is a prolific issue in the Annapolis River watershed and throughout Nova Scotia. Native fish species, such as brook trout and Atlantic salmon, require access to a variety of habitats in order to spawn, forage for food, and find cool water during warm summer months.

 

One of the predominant causes of aquatic habitat fragmentation is from watercourse crossings (such as culverts) that create barriers which restrict movement of fish through a river system, cutting off their access to important habitat. Dams are another example of a barrier to fish passage. 

 

Over 70% of the culverts that Clean Annapolis River Project has assessed since 2007 are barriers to fish passage. In order to address this issue, CARP has begun implementing a variety of restoration actions.