Hundreds of fish die after water source shut off by Nova Scotia

In an effort to supply firefighters fighting Nova Scotia wildfires with a constant flow of water, the province inadvertently killed hundreds of fish trying to swim upriver to spawn.

Nikki Lloyd of the Annapolis Valley First Nation discovered the dead fish and organized an awareness walk around Lake Pisiquid where the fish were discovered.

“I felt disgusted it was extremely disheartening to sit there and watch fish die knowing there was nothing I could do to help them in the moment,” said Lloyd.

The man-made lake gets filled with water from the Avon River. When the gates of Aboiteau in the Windsor causeway are closed, and the tide drops,  the fish get stuck in the mud and cannot travel up the Avon River.

The province of Nova Scotia issued an emergency order to close the gates of this fish passage, as a precautionary measure to re-fill Lake Pisiquid during the wildfires. The province announces last week the wildfires are under control.

A federal order from 2021 ordered the gates to be opened during incoming and outgoing tides to allow for the passage of fish.

The death of the fish prompted a march at the Nova Scotia legislature on Monday to call for action.

Mi’kmaw grandmother Ducie Howe of the Sipekne’kaitk First Nation says the gates should not be closed.

“So there’s hundreds of gaspereau and salmon trying to go up river, unable to spawn, and it needs to be open and they need to stop murdering our relatives every day for no real you know, logical reason there’s lots of resources and ways to get water if needed,” she said.

Paul said he can’t understand why the gates are still closed.

“The gate closure has been for political gain and not public safety the fire ban has been lifted and yet they still have the emergency order in place.”

Avon River aboiteau gates. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.


John Lohr, the minister responsible for Nova Scotia’s emergency management office told APTN News that the order is a matter of public safety.

“This decision was done in the interest of public safety to ensure adequate water supply is available for fires. We stand by this decision and have renewed the order. The order will be renewed as long as it is needed for public safety,” he said.

Mi’kmaq water protectors have been protecting the river for the last two years since the federal order. It was a win until now.

Lloyd thinks that there needs to be more attention paid to the effect on wildlife.

“All the work that we’ve done all the collaboration and relationship building has been thrown out the window for esthetics of a man-made lake and when all it’s doing is killing fish and we’re not going to be silenced and we’re tired of being ignored,” she said.

The provincial emergency order has been extended, and Paul says the water protectors are prepared to stay,

“We plan on staying here until we see these gates are opened again and that our relatives are allowed to pass freely through and resume their life cycles,” he said.

The water protectors are exploring legal options to protect the river.

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