Dead fish in Ottawa River investigated

by Jason Bain | July 12, 2019
dead fish
A photo of a dead river redhorse on the Ottawa River. Photo courtesy Ottawa Riverkeeper

An investigation is underway after hundreds of dead fish were found in the Ottawa River east of the nation’s capital, according to local media.

Hundreds of dead fish – including muskie, carp, and catfish – have been spotted from Cumberland to Rockland, CTV News Ottawa reported Wednesday.

“If you look out on the river, every white spot is a dead fish at this point,” frequent angler Eric Champagne told the broadcaster.

Samples of the fish and water have reportedly been collected by officials from the Ontario, Quebec, and federal governments.

“Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) enforcement officials are aware of the situation with the Ottawa River and are gathering information to determine whether there has been contravention of environmental law,” spokesperson Jenn Gearey stated via email.

ECCC is responsible for administering and enforcing pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish, she explained.

When ECCC enforcement officers find evidence of an alleged contravention, they may take enforcement measures in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act.

Available enforcement measures include written warnings, directions, and charges leading to prosecution, Gearey pointed out.

CTV reports that it is believed the fish died in the Du Lièvre River in Western Quebec and flowed downstream into the Ottawa River. Lack of oxygen is reportedly a factor, but test results are not yet available.

Like other anglers, Ottawa journalist and Ontario OUT of DOORS contributor Tim Allard reacted with concern.

“I haven’t gone and checked out the shoreline myself, but from the news reports I’ve seen there are a lot of dead fish. That’s disturbing,” he said. “I’m eager to learn more about the cause.

Allard pointed out that he was fishing for catfish with his children last week on the river upstream of the Lièvre, but didn’t see any floating, dead fish.

Ottawa Riverkeeper is recommending no one eat fish from the Ottawa River until more information becomes available.

Ottawa Riverkeeper
Patrick Nadeau with a dead sturgeon. (Courtesy Ottawa Riverkeeper)

Patrick Nadeau, the executive director of the watershed protection group, told CTV a lack of oxygen may have been caused by a spill or leak.

The municipality of Clarence-Rockland says tests show their drinking water is, however, safe for consumption, CTV reported.

The Ontario mystery comes less than a week after a fire at a Jim Beam bourbon storage warehouse in Versailles, Kentucky led to a massive fish die-off in the Kentucky River.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which is believed to have been ignited by lightning.

CTV reports 45,000 barrels of aging whiskey was destroyed, contributing to an alcohol plume on the river approximately 37 kilometres long. Local media captured footage of dead fish floating down the river and piling up at the banks.

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