The Ottawa River watershed is home to hundreds of plant and animal species, however habitat threats including the introduction of dams, urban development, and pollution from residential and industrial sources have resulted in population declines for several species. A number of these species are listed as threatened or endangered both provincially and/or federally.
Over the years Ottawa Riverkeeper has worked to increase awareness for endangered species living in the watershed through outreach efforts as well as through participation in recovery measures. However, this work is not without its challenges. Some species have life cycles that are dependant on others meaning protection efforts for one species can involve protecting several. Also, many species are only listed as at risk by one province highlighting that species within the same river have different types of protection depending on which side of the border they are found. Additionally, very few species in our watershed are listed federally. This complicated regulatory landscape is one of the challenges we face as an organization that works in a multi-jurisdictions watershed. Regardless of the provincial and federal status, the species on our watershed require a healthy and protected river to thrive.
The Hickorynut (Obovaria olivaria) is a species of freshwater mussel that calls the Ottawa River home. It lives on the sandy bottom of deeper stretches of the river and is more likely to be found in areas where its host fish, the Lake Sturgeon is present. The larval form of the Hickorynut (called glochidia) attach to the gills of the Lake Sturgeon where they feed and grow until they are mature enough to detach and live in the river. Due to a combination of threats including the invasive Zebra Mussel, as well as declining levels of the Lake Sturgeon, declines in Hickorynut distribution and populations have been seen across its North American range. As of August 16, 2019 the priority of the Hickorynut as an endangered species in Canada has increased. It is now listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act, meaning it receives federal and legal protections under the act.
How Are We Helping?
With funding support from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans under their Habitat Stewardship Program, and in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature researcher and freshwater mussel expert, Dr. André Martel, Ottawa Riverkeeper has recently begun work on a project to help protect the Hickorynut. The goal of this initiative is to promote the conservation and recovery efforts for the Hickorynut in the Ottawa River, through outreach in communities where populations of the mussel are found, as well as by conducting survey dives to establish where population “hotspots” can be found.
The American eel was once the dominant fish species in the Ottawa River. In the past 40 years, it has declined by 99% and, along with it, so has the appreciation for its rich historical, ecological and cultural values within the watershed. In response, the Ontario government has listed the American eel as a species at risk. Ottawa Riverkeeper and its allies will not accept the continued decimation of this iconic species.
How Are We Helping?
Ottawa Riverkeeper has pushed the Ontario provincial government to list the American eel as a species at risk, and commented on the Government Response Statement for how to protect the endangered species. We also organize annual Trap and Transfers to help with eel migration, and spearhead Eel Days, to help increase awareness on this issue. We are also working closely with hydro companies to address how best to protect this population during their migration.
Ontario’s Review of the Endangered Species Act (February 2019)
About the American Eel (September 2015)
The American Eel: Help Save these Lovely Ladies (December 2014)
Fish Species at Risk in the Ottawa River (June 2014)