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Hundreds of fish turned up dead in Quebec. Environmentalists want to know why

Hundreds of fish turned up dead in Quebec. Environmentalists want to know why
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Environmentalists and the federal government are trying to figure out why hundreds of fish turned up dead in a section of the Saint Lawrence River near Montreal.

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A local organization called La Vigile Verte says water levels in the La Prairie Bassin between Montreal and Brossard suddenly dropped lower than they’ve seen in decades, leaving countless marine animals high and dry. A few weeks ago Vigile Verte director Gina Philie was walking the shores of the Saint Lawrence looking for trash to pick up when she had a terrible realization. She was stepping on hundreds of dead fish.

“There were big fish, little fish, all kinds of different varieties were dead,” she told Global News. “I said to myself ‘It’s not normal that there are so many dead animals on the shore.’”

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After some steady rain, the water is higher now. Standing on the river shore in Leon Gravel Park, Philie that day it was so low she could have walked to an island a few hundred meters away that she’d usually need to swim to.

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“There was no water at all here,” she explained.


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Dr. Philippe Blais, a biologist and founder of Vigile Verte, called the situation “completely abnormal.”

He said says many fish got caught out of the water, both in the La Prairie Basin and other nearby bodies of water.

He believes waste and a lack of oxygen in the could have also contributed to their deaths.

Some got stuck in small pools.

“A few weeks back it was like minus ten while this froze over, so any fish that might have like made it into these little pools probably just died right there,” he said.

Other creatures like crustaceans, mussels, insects and turtles were left totally exposed.

“There’s a massacre every year,” said Blais. “This is not normal.”

According to Blais, die offs are an annual occurrence.

The scientist says the Saint Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation lowers the water at the Cote Sainte Catherine lock during the winter months. that for reasons unknown, but he accused them of lowering it even more this year.

“We’d like to know exactly what the reason is,” he said.

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The Seaway Authority says it controls water levels during the winter period of non-navigation for infrastructure maintenance purposes.

“We can remind ourselves that we had the warmest year on record in the North American continent,” said St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation external relations vice president Jean Aubry-Morin. “Low to reduced ice cover, water evaporation from the basin related to warmer weather conditions combined with the other factor related to climate change would all have contributed to the observed situation.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada told Global News in a statement it received a report about the low waters and dead fish on March 1.

“DFO will be in contact with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation for further information,” said Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokesperson Tomie White.

The environmentalists hope Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducts a meaningful investigation into the issue so it can be prevented in the future.

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