Group to intentionally poison Miramichi Lake Aug. 17 – Yahoo News Canada

On Tuesday, Aug. 17, life changes for people enjoying cottage time around Miramichi Lake, near Napadogan. For most of the fish living in or near the lake, life ends on Tuesday.
On that day, a working group with a stated goal to protect Atlantic salmon will pour thousands of gallons of a toxic chemical into the lake, Lake Brook and more than 17 kilometres of the Southwest branch of Miramichi River to eradicate the population of smallmouth bass, considered an invasive species to the waters. Unfortunately, Noxfish Fish Toxicant II, with the active ingredient rotenone, will kill almost all fish, regardless of species.
The working group, consisting of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the North Shore Mi'kmaq District Council and four other organizations, believe the eradication project is the only way to protect the Miramichi River's salmon population from the growing bass threat.
An ad hoc committee of cottage owners and other opponents to the project contend poisoning a lake and river system to address what they see as one minor piece of the many significant threats to Miramichi salmon is drastic and dangerous.
With the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and New Brunswick Department of Environment approval in hand, the eradication team will move forward with the project as planned on Tuesday, Aug. 17.
Trish Foster, whose family owns a cottage on the lake, is part of the ad hoc group battling the eradication plan for the past three years. Despite hundreds of documents, she said, numerous questions remain unanswered.
They believe the deadly toxin will have unintended consequences.
Foster questions the environmental report's determination the poison has no impact on land animals or birds. Even if the toxin doesn't directly affect birds and other animals, Foster said, it kills a large portion of the other animals' food sources.
"No fish for the eagles to eat," she said. "No fish for the loons to eat."
Neville Crabbe, Executive Director of Communications for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said experts studied the issue.
"The Canadian Wildlife Service was consulted and contributed to the N.B. environmental impact assessment and determined that the project would not impact piscivorous or migratory birds," he said.
Foster said the impact of birds and mammals is only one of a myriad of questions surrounding the eradication project. She notes Health Canada approvals for Noxfish II include lakes but not rivers. The working group initially sought environmental clearance for the lake but later amended it to include part of the river.
Crabbe explained steps are in place to ensure the killing solution doesn't run further downriver than the projected 17.2 kilometres.
In approving the eradication operation, DFO officials described the project as "moderate risk, with high uncertainty."
Foster's biggest concern is when and where the "high uncertainty" raises its ugly head.
While the working group will take steps to mitigate the impact following the process, including collecting some dead fish, it has no plan to restock the lake immediately.
Crabbe said the original plan included removing some species and holding them in a tank, then returning them after the neutralizer removed the effect of any remaining toxin. He said DFO nixed the idea, suggesting wild fish would not survive the process.
Speaking on behalf of the New Brunswick Environment Department, which completed the EIA, spokesperson Anne Mooers said the plan now allows for the natural return of native species.
"It is our understanding that the lake will be allowed to repopulate naturally for a period of two years, and if monitoring indicates that non-migratory species are not recolonizing the lake after this time, adults will be transplanted from nearby lakes," Mooers said.
Foster said her group, which includes cottage owners and environmental and wildlife experts, called on environment officials to amend that plan.
"Restocking of Miramichi Lake must take place in the spring of 2022," the group said. "The lake must be stocked with mature fish species to prey upon any smallmouth bass that may remain in the lake post-poisoning."
While the working group garnered all necessary approval to move ahead with the project, Foster wants to know who takes responsibility if something goes awry.
Crabbe said a team is in place to watch over the area treated with Noxfish II over the coming years.
"There will be a five-year ecological monitoring program led by Anqotum Resource Management afterwards," he said.
From Foster's perspective, a monitoring team serves little use if many of the untested practices using a killer toxin in a pristine body of water doesn't turn out as planned.
Chantal Roussel, a communications advisor for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said the department studied the project thoroughly before authorizing it. She said smallmouth bass are an invasive species that poses a great danger to the Miramichi watershed.
"Aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose a serious threat to our environment, fisheries, and species at risk across Canada, as well as to industries that rely on aquatic resources, such as fisheries and aquaculture," she said in an emailed response to the River Valley Sun.
Roussel said DFO closely studied the plan for Miramichi Lake.
"DFO took into consideration the alternative measures; impacts of the deposit of rotenone on fish and fish habitat; public safety; and impacts on activities of other federal and provincial regulators," she said. "DFO's authorization was issued following the completion of a provincial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and consultations with Indigenous communities."
Roussel said rotenone has been used across Canada, including last October in Piper Lake in Nova Scotia.
"DFO authorized that project because it will ensure the highest chance of success in eradication, the lowest risk of escapees, and a relatively low localized impact compared to the potential impact of unmitigated spread," she said.
While Fisheries and Oceans and the New Brunswick Department of Environment back the eradication plan, Foster said her group remains concerned because the ASF working group drove the process, even changing the project at the last minute.
After Tuesday, Fisher doubts the pristine lake will ever be the same. She expressed doubt some species of fish will ever return, and her group remains concerned about the long-term impact of the eradication.
Foster fears no one will be held responsible for wildlife and environmental damage, or even the physical damage to the beach, road or other private and public infrastructure in the region. Besides, she said, this marks only the first potential poisoning of the lake. Foster said the working group's licence lasts three years, she said, meaning this could happen again.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun
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