Fish kill reported in western P.E.I. stream

Enhancement coordinator makes discovery while preparing for exercise to evaluate health of stream, fish

Eric McCarthy
Published on August 22, 2016

ROSEVILLE, P.E.I.  – Dead fish, numbering in the hundreds were discovered Monday in the Little Miminegash River in Roseville and investigators are trying to determine why they died.

Danny Murphy, watershed coordinator for Roseville-Miminegash Watersheds Inc., discovered dead fish upstream from Roseville Pond Monday morning.

In an ironic twist of fate, Murphy and a co-worker had visited the stream to prepare for an electrofishing exercise. Electrofishing is used to determine the health and population of fish in a section of a stream. The provincial official who was to conduct the exercise ultimately joined the investigation into the cause of the fish kill.

“It looks like they’re all dead,” Murphy said in describing what investigators subsequently found while walking the stream.

When he first went down to the small river, Murphy said he saw that a beaver dam had started to form at the culvert where the river crosses under Route 14, the Shore Road, before it empties into the pond. He noticed several dead fish caught up in the dam.

Pointing to a structure about 150 meters away, Murphy said he walked upstream about that distance and counted 100 dead fish.

That’s as far as he went before returning home around 8:30 a.m. and calling the fish kill hotline. Investigators arrived on the scene around 11:30 a.m. and started collecting water, sediment, plant samples and dead fish for analysis.

Brad Potter, manager of the Fish and Wildlife Section of Communities, Land and Environment said water quality was also being examined.

Wade MacKinnon, manager of investigation and enforcement with Public Safety and Justice was on scene along with officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada and P.E.I. Community Lands and Environment.

MacKinnon said there was still much investigative work to do to determine a cause.

Murphy estimated the Little Miminegash Brook is only about five kilometers long, as the crow flies, but he pointed out the meandering stream covers considerably more distance than that. As officials walked the stream, Murphy followed along a trail on a four-wheeler and he said they were finding dead fish in similar concentrations to what he found during his initial walk.

“Well, it looks like every species has been killed, right from sticklebacks to trout,” he said when asked to describe the extent of the damage. Some of the trout measured 22 inches, and some were found dragged up onto the bank possibly by raccoons. An eel and a gaspereau were also found dead.

Murphy said some tree planting had been carried out near the stream last Tuesday but the last time any enhancement work was done in the stream was about three weeks ago.

The watershed experienced heavy rainfall last Thursday

The watershed coordinator said much enhancement work has been carried out in the stream over the past nine years, including removal of beaver dams, installing brush mats, digging silt traps, planting trees, working with farmers to improve land use and working with Highways to reduce silt run-off from Blanchard Road. He said they had been seeing a resurgence in trout population as a result. He said people have been telling him it will likely take at least three years for the stream to recover from the fish kill. He said re-stocking might be necessary.

“Traditionally, we haven’t had fish kills, because we have so much forest around our streams,” he said but noted that changed on Monday.