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Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers Priority Area

Map of Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers Priority Area. See text that follows.
Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers Priority Area

This priority area includes specific rivers in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (PEI) that drain into the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. These rivers are home to four species (Atlantic Salmon, American Eel, Atlantic Sturgeon and Brook Floater freshwater mussel) listed under the Species at Risk Act or that have been assessed as at-risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The watersheds draining into the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence have become vulnerable to threats, such as habitat degradation and fragmentation resulting from human activities. Other threats include the introduction of aquatic invasive species, pollution and climate change.

Conservation efforts currently underway

Further research must be conducted to better understand this ecosystem and mitigate threats. A project led by the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick is identifying how the presence of a native predator, Striped Bass, impacts Atlantic Salmon and American Eel in the Miramichi River. This research provides information that will contribute to the protection and recovery of these species. This project will also engage local First Nations communities and provide capacity to protect these species.

A project undertaken by the Mi’kmaw Conservation Group of The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, uses a collaborative approach to identify threats and improve habitat for at-risk species found within three watersheds of mainland Nova Scotia, in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers priority area. By using a two-eyed seeing approach that combines Mi’kmaw Traditional Ecological Knowledge with western science, the project is engaging with local First Nation communities to gain a greater scope of knowledge and enhance local participation in habitat assessment and restoration.

Using a similar two-eyed seeing approach, the Abegweit Conservation Society is conducting a stewardship program for at-risk freshwater species in the Midgell, Morell and Mill River ecosystems in PEI, with a special focus on the threats facing culturally significant species. The project identifies and prioritizes specific threats present in each river to determine which restoration or management techniques are most appropriate. Once threats are identified and prioritized, conservation actions will be carried out with maximum involvement of Indigenous communities and mentors.

Also emphasizing the importance of collaboration, the Nova Scotia Salmon Association has initiated a project to restore high-value aquatic habitats in four rivers within the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence River priority area (West and South Rivers (Antigonish) and the Mabou and Margaree Rivers in Cape Breton). This project is bringing together Indigenous Groups, stakeholders and other interested parties in stewardship activities that support the planning, prioritization and implementation of management activities that address a number of identified threats. This project is helping Canadians play an active role in our collective effort to conserve and protect our local ecosystems.

Advancements in technology allow organizations to use innovative tools to mitigate threats impacting local watersheds. The Gespe’gewaq Mi’gmaq Resource Council recognizes the value of technology in conservation efforts and has initiated a project that will support the management of aquatic ecosystems and sustainable habitat restoration through the use of biological data, GIS tools and other new technologies. The information collected through the use of these tools can support habitat restoration efforts and determine solutions to manage threats such as barriers to fish passage and pollution from municipal, agricultural and industrial sources. These efforts are restoring valuable cold-water habitats at 30 sites in the Restigouche River watershed that are essential to three culturally and economically significant species at risk.

A cold water enhancement project led by the North Shore Micmac District Council Inc. focuses on mitigating the long-term effects of climate change on the Miramichi River system. Cold water habitats in the Miramichi River play an important role in the life cycle of Atlantic Salmon and other at-risk species during warm summer months. The cold water enhancement project is conducting research to identify areas in the river that could act as thermal refuges, as well as initiating habitat improvement activities to ensure the sustainability of these crucial cold water habitats. The project is also implementing control measures to minimize the impacts of Smallmouth Bass, an aquatic invasive species, on native species.

Through the activities planned, which include identifying and assessing specific threats, conducting research, developing management strategies and implementing conservation activities, these Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk (CNFASAR) supported projects contribute to a significant cumulative effort to improve the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers priority area. Many projects emphasize the importance of stewardship and engagement with local Indigenous groups, stakeholders, environmental groups and the general public. By mobilizing Canadians, we are taking steps to promote the recovery and conservation of valuable ecosystems and species in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers priority area.

Learn more about projects in this area

Etuaptmumk (two-eyed seeing) stewardship of freshwater species at risk and ecosystems in the Midgell, Morell and Mill Rivers of PEI

Etuaptmumk (two-eyed seeing) stewardship of freshwater species at risk and ecosystems in the Midgell, Morell and Mill Rivers of PEI

Recipient: Abegweit Conservation Society

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Habitat Rehabilitation: Debris & Barrier Removal for Connectivity Cascumpec Bay Watershed Association 
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Training: Lennox Island & Abegweit participants with instructor Ron Jenkins

Project goal: This four-year project aims to integrate both science and Indigenous knowledge principles (two-eyed seeing) into the management of threats affecting two culturally significant species at risk in the Midgell, Morell and Mill Rivers in Prince Edward Island.

First, threats will be identified and prioritized for each river. Traditional Indigenous knowledge of the rivers and species will be used in conjunction with western science-generated data to inform development of action plans for each river and species. Various habitat characteristics will be investigated, mapped and modelled in all three rivers. Trends and future projections will be produced to inform prioritization of in-stream restoration work or other management options.

Once threats have been identified and prioritized, the best restoration techniques will be selected for each river. Potential actions include in-stream and riparian zone restoration work such as the removal of barriers to fish passage, restoration of in-stream habitat (e.g., stabilization of eroding banks, replacement of culverts), diversification of riparian forest cover (planting) and the correction of hydrology impacted by historical human use (e.g., establishment of natural meander pattern, channel width to depth ratio). These actions will be completed while maximizing the involvement of Indigenous mentors to build the capacity for leadership in stewardship among local Indigenous peoples tied to the three river systems.

Fund Allocation: $1,352,800

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Understanding threats to Atlantic salmon and American eel from an increasing native predator in the Miramichi River and surrounding Gulf of Saint Lawrence area

Understanding threats to Atlantic salmon and American eel from an increasing native predator in the Miramichi River and surrounding Gulf of Saint Lawrence area

Recipient: Canadian Rivers Institute at University of New Brunswick

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Electrofishing
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Monitoring the tags

Project goal: This four-year project studies the level of potential threat from a native fish predator on two native fish species at risk in the Miramichi River. This project has two elements. The first element consists of necessary research on the predatory effects of the Striped Bass on two at risk fish species. This research aims to contribute to the effective protection, recovery and science-based management of these aquatic species at risk.

The second element aims to engage and build capacity within the local First Nations communities. This project, in partnership with local First Nation communities (Metepenagiag and Natoaganeg), will (1) aim to improve awareness of conservation and cultural issues facing these species at risk; (2) train and transfer knowledge of fisheries techniques (electrofishing, telemetry, acoustic tracking) to the local First Nations; and (3) improve and retain research skills and capacity (project equipment, individuals) in the local First Nations participating in the project in order to create a lasting nature legacy.

Fund Allocation: $473,000

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Habitat restoration for three species of concern in the Restigouche watershed and estuary

Habitat restoration for three species of concern in the Restigouche watershed and estuary

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LiDAR imagery for the Upsalquitch River subcatchment (Arsenault et al. 2020)
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Assessment of culverts to determine passibility of target species, habitat quality and restoration potential
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Remote identification of 3803 crossings using the intersection of roads and streams in the Restigouche River Watershed

Recipient: Gespe’gewaq Mi’gmaq Resource Council

Project goal:This four-year project aims to identify and restore priority habitats for three at-risk fish species in the Restigouche River watershed and its estuary. The main goal of this project is to establish and support partnerships for the management of aquatic species to allow co-development of a sustainable habitat restoration strategy based on available biological data, GIS tools and new technology.

This project will support habitat restoration work such as the replacement or remediation of barriers to fish passage to restore habitat connectivity and the reduction of runoff from municipal, agricultural and industrial infrastructures. These actions will prevent further habitat degradation and act to mitigate the cumulative impacts of habitat fragmentation, pollution and nutrient loading.

In addition, the project will contribute to engagement efforts with Indigenous communities and academic institutions to develop an understanding of Mi'gmaq Ecological Knowledge systems and develop mechanisms to better inform management decisions regarding the targeted species at risk.

Fund Allocation: $661,600

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Miramichi cold water enhancement climate change resiliency program

Miramichi cold water enhancement climate change resiliency program

Recipient: North Shore Micmac District Council Inc.- Anqotum Resource Management

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Field Technician conducting Brook Floater Survey at Miramichi Lake
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Field Technician conducting Brook Floater Survey at Miramichi Lake

Project goal: This four-year project seeks to create a climate change resilient Miramichi river system by enhancing cold-water habitats for fish species during summer high temperature events. To do this, the project will identify areas with high potential to serve as thermal refuges and then carry out enhancement work such as conducting habitat improvement projects for aquatic species at risk, surveys to better understand the distribution of the species and mitigate impacts from invasive species through control management. These actions aim to ensure a sustainable, long lasting, legacy to benefit aquatic species at risk in the Miramichi River System.

Finally, this project will establish an Indigenous Environmental Technician curriculum to build capacity to carry out future technical environmental work.

Fund Allocation: $725,150

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Habitat restoration planning, implementation and collaboration in four nova scotia watersheds of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers priority area

Habitat restoration planning, implementation and collaboration in four nova scotia watersheds of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers priority area

Recipient: Nova Scotia Salmon Association

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Restoration on Margaree River –Sept 2019
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Bank Stabilization

Project goal: This four-year project aims to restore high-value aquatic ecosystems in four priority rivers within the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Rivers Priority Area, specifically in the West and South Rivers (Antigonish) and the Mabou and Margaree Rivers in Cape Breton. This project will promote the recovery of aquatic species at risk through planning, prioritization and implementation of activities that mitigate identified threats (e.g. declining water quality, habitat fragmentation).

This project will support a long-term legacy for recovery actions and develop strategic and lasting collaboration with and between Indigenous Peoples, stakeholders and other interested parties.

Fund Allocation: $866,232

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Species at risk watershed assessment and management of culturally significant fish species through a two-eyed seeing approach within Mi'kma'ki, Mainland Nova Scotia

Species at risk watershed assessment and management of culturally significant fish species through a two-eyed seeing approach within Mi'kma'ki, Mainland Nova Scotia

Recipient: The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq

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The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq - Mi’kmaw Conservation Group assisting project partners with the release of Atlantic Salmon (Plamu’k) into the Inner Bay of Fundy watersheds
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The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq - Mi’kmaw Conservation Group’s CNFASAR Team presenting project goals and upcoming activities at the Aquatic Conservation and Monitoring workshop

Project goal: This four-year project identifies threats and improves fish habitat for multiple aquatic species at risk through biological assessments, habitat restoration and stewardship outreach in participating Mi'kmaw communities. The Two-Eyed Seeing approach of this project will bring together Mi’kmaq Ecological Knowledge (MEK) and western science, allowing for a greater understanding of the role and importance of multiple perspectives.

The project takes place in three areas across mainland Nova Scotia: the St. Croix River, Stewiacke River and Southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence watersheds. This approach addresses high-priority threats to aquatic species at risk and to species of importance in Mi'kmaq culture for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Mi'kmaw community engagement, participation and species at risk stewardship are essential parts of this project and will ensure there is a lasting, positive impact in terms of conservation, increased awareness and capacity to protect species at risk for future generations.

Fund Allocation: $2,308,257

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

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