Ottawa River Eel Update

In Spring 2014, the Government of Ontario will release their response to the American Eel Recovery Strategy for your input. Don’t let this opportunity slither away.

With so few eels left on the Ottawa River it is hard to imagine that this species was once the dominant fish on the Ottawa River, accounting for over half of the river’s biomass. Today, eel throughout the Ottawa River, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence systems are endangered, with the populations a mere remnant of what they once were. While many factors play into the demise of the American eel, the multiple dams on our river are a major cause of the population collapse within this watershed.

Public consultation
On November 22, 2013, the Province of Ontario released its draft American Eel Recovery Strategy for public consultation. Written by an eminent group of experts, including Dr. John Casselman who spoke at ourAGM last year, The Strategy is an excellent read for anyone interested in the biology and history of this fascinating species.

Ottawa Riverkeeper responded to the Ministry of Natural Resources survey on the eel recovery strategy and submitted an individual response to the strategy.

Government’s response
With the public comments in hand, the Government is now developing their response to the strategy. While the recently released draft focusses on the researchers’ recommendations for protecting the species, the government’s ‘response statement’ will lay out what the Province of Ontario is actually committed to doing to protect the American eel. The ‘response statement’ will define the government’s goals for the recovery of the eel (ex. Return eels to what range? Increase population by how much?) as well as articulating priority actions that they will take to achieve these goals.

In our response to the MNR, we made it clear that, overall, we strongly support the recommendations of American Eel Recovery Strategy. We will be carefully reviewing the government’s response to the American Eel Recovery Strategy to ensure that the goals the government sets out reflect the importance of this species throughout our watershed, and that the government’s stated priority actions address the needs of eels on the Ottawa River.

What can you do?
Eel Update Jan 27, 2014When the government releases its ‘response statement’ to the American Eel Recovery Strategy – expected in Spring 2014 – there will be an opportunity for the public to respond. Please follow us on facebook and twitter(@ottriverkeeper), read your newsletters, and keep an eye on our website. As soon as we have the government’s response to the recovery strategy, we will review it and share our comments and recommendations. We will also provide you with all the information you need to give input.

For thousands of years, eel sustained the First Nations people along the Ottawa River. From as early as the 1700s, the American eel commercial fishery provided income to families from the Great Lakes through to Nova Scotia. Our Ottawa River eels are critical to the global survival of the species, and as we’ve said elsewhere, we need all governments to dive in. Our eels migrate up to 12,000 km in their lifetime, passing through multiple jurisdictions, yet they all come from a single population. We need an international, multi-jurisdictional management strategy to save this species from extinction. And as for the Ottawa River eels, the federal government, Ontario and Quebec need to get together – soon – to create a shared vision and strategy to save our eels before they disappear entirely from the Ottawa River.