Pollution a very high threat to Eastern Canada watershed, new WWF report finds

WWF-Canada releases new watershed report
assessing health of and threats to the maritime coastal watershed

TORONTO, March 30, 2016 /CNW/ - Pollution is a very high threat to the maritime coastal watershed in Eastern Canada, according to new data released today by WWF-Canada.

Lack of data and poor water quality are also a concern, according to the latest update to WWF-Canada's Watershed Report. The report aims to assess all 25 of Canada's major watersheds by 2017, and the maritime coastal watershed is the latest to be included. This watershed covers all of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, as well as parts of New Brunswick and Quebec. The Maritime Coastal Watershed Report was funded by Environment Canada's Gulf of Maine Initiative.

Quote from Elizabeth Hendriks, World Wildlife Fund Canada vice-president of freshwater conservation:
"The maritime coastal watershed is an important area that holds five Canadian heritage rivers. Approximately 1.5 million people live in this watershed and it's well known for its wildlife, including Atlantic salmon, brook trout, American eel and the endangered wood turtle. To find that this watershed is assessed high for pollution, is quite disturbing. We found that in some parts of the watershed such as the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St Lawrence sub-watershed, substances including aluminum, cadmium, copper and lead exceed water quality guidelines in 100 per cent of water samples taken. We hope this report brings awareness that there are significant threats to the health of this watershed's ecosystem. We need to take action for the wildlife and communities that depend on it."

WWF-Canada works to assess the health of watersheds based the following indicators

Health indicators:

Threat indicators:

  • Water flow
  • Water quality
  • Benthic invertebrates (bugs)
  • Fish
  • Pollution
  • Climate change
  • Habitat loss
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Over allocation/use of water
  • Alteration of water flows
  • Invasive species.

Key threats identified in the Maritime Coastal Watershed Report:

  • Moderate: Overall threat in the maritime coastal watershed.
  • High-Low: The sub-watershed overall threat score in the Prince Edward Island sub-watershed is high, the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence (Nova Scotia) sub-watershed is high, the Southeastern Atlantic Ocean (Nova Scotia) sub-watershed is high, the Cape Breton sub-watershed is moderate, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northern bay of Fundy (New Brunswick) is low.
  • Pollution: Scored as a very high threat, primarily associated with agricultural contamination and point-source pollution. Phosphorous and nitrogen pollution from agricultural activity are very high in the Prince Edward Island sub-watershed and the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence (Nova Scotia) sub-watershed. In the Southeastern Atlantic Ocean sub-watershed, the pollution from point source (direct discharge) pollution and pipeline incidents are high and very high, respectively.
  • Moderate: Threat level from habitat fragmentation by dams and by roads and rail crossings in the Maritime Coastal overall; sub-watershed scores range from high to very high by road and rail, and range from low to high by dams.
  • Low: Threats associated with invasive species, overuse of water and alteration of flows across the watershed with an unknown presence/absence data in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence (Nova Scotia)

Key health issues identified in the Maritime Coastal Watershed Report:

  • Lack of data: We could not assign an overall health score to the watershed as a whole due to a lack of comprehensive data for two of the four indicators. Given how little we know regarding the overall water quality, the very high threat of pollution is particularly concerning.
  • Very good and good: Score respectively for flow and benthic invertebrates, for which there was enough data to provide a watershed wide score.
  • Poor: Water quality assessment for the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northern Bay of Fundy (New Brunswick) sub-watershed, the only one which has enough data to assign a score.
  • Rising: Results also indicate a significant increasing trend in the proportion of water-quality exceedances between 2011 and 2015 in the Prince Edward Island sub-watershed.
  • Good: Fish health, where sufficient data is available.
  • Very good and good: Overall health score for 01E-Southeastern Atlantic Ocean (Nova Scotia) sub-watershed and 01B-Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northern Bay of Fundy (New Brunswick) sub-watershed respectively.

To learn more about the Maritime Coastal Watershed Report please visit: http://watershedreports.wwf.ca/#ws-24/by/threat-overall/profile

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that wildlife, nature and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more info visit wwf.ca


For further information: Rowena Calpito, WWF-Canada, (416) 489-4567 Ext. 7267, rcalpito@wwfcanada.org


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