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Rideau Canal fish die-off normal: park official


Dead fish not cause for concern: Rideau Canal official
Dead fish not cause for concern: Rideau Canal official

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

June 7, 2011 — People enjoying the nice weather by walking along Ottawa's Rideau Canal may have noticed something a little unusual lately: dozens of dead fish floating in the water. But a top Parks Canada official says there's no reason to be concerned.

When the canal freezes in winter, the fish are deprived of fresh oxygen; only the strong survive
When the canal freezes in winter, the fish are deprived of fresh oxygen; only the strong survive

Irv Mazurkiewicz, direction of canal operations for the Rideau, says the fish die-off is a routine occurrence in spring and not an indication of pollution in the canal.

“The population generally has a better perspective on environmental issues (nowadays) so when they see dead fish they're concerned,” he said, adding Parks Canada works closely with scientists at Carleton University to monitor the health of the water system.

“This is not a pollution issue, it's a natural issue of die-off,” he said.

The die-off, which has mainly affected carp but also blue gill and rock bass, is largely caused by winter cold snaps.

“Ice freezes over the top of the water, which doesn’t allow oxygen into the water over the winter, which means only the hardiest of the fish survive,” Mazurkiewicz explained.

It's also spawning season for several fish species, which is a stressful time for the fish.

“Again, only the hardiest of the fish survive,” Mazurkiewicz added.

Crews travel up and down the canal on a daily basis removing the dead fish and other debris. Mazurkiewicz said people shouldn't worry about the fish population in the canal.

“We have millions of fish in that stretch of the canal between Hartwells Locks ... and the Ottawa Locks.”

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