Sites are being vetted this spring to find that right location that combines power, access, security, and won’t disturb fishers using the river.
Along with the sonar counting project, DFO has secured and is preparing to install a new smolt counting wheel on the Margaree.
Being mechanical, such gear requires a significant amount of manpower and hands-on supervision. To have a good run at data collection, training, preparation, and staffing requires up to a year of preparation, and we look forward to assisting this project in 2019.
Margaree Celebrates 20th Anniversary as a Canadian Heritage River
In 2018 the Margaree River will celebrate its second completed decade designated as Canadian Heritage River. The CHR designation is a joint program administered by federal, provincial and territorial governments to conserve and protect the best examples of Canada’s river heritage. By providing and encouraging national recognition, Canadians gain a deeper appreciation of key rivers. They also increase their opportunities to enjoy them.
The Margaree is one of just two Nova Scotian Canadian Heritage Rivers
Set up in 1984, the CHR enjoyed nationwide coverage in all provinces and territories. There are 39 listed heritage rivers in the program. The Margaree became the second Nova Scotian river in 1998, just a year after the Shelburne. In 2006 Quebec withdrew from the program, but efforts are being made to reintegrate them and return the project to full national status.
The Margaree-Lake Ainslie Canadian Heritage River Society manages the river's registration. Its name reflects the larger scale of the river’s watershed. Del Muise is the society’s chair. Designation is for ten years, and this year requires renewal. The original nomination was not for cultural values, and there is widespread acceptance that the original Mi’kmaq and later European culture of the Margaree only adds to the value of our common heritage. Del leads a group of dedicated volunteers that is raising awareness and starting new projects.
New signage on the Cabot Trail will assist travellers link location and heritage
One to watch out for in the next few weeks in new interpretive signage to be posted along the roadsides of the river. Del writes:
The Margaree-Lake Ainslie Canadian Heritage River Society is following up its very successful interpretive banner program from last summer’s CANADA150 celebration with a series of informative signs reflecting on the history of the Margaree watershed. The twelve signs in the project -- the graphic work for which was designed by Leslie Shaw of Northeast Margaree -- feature stylized map of the watershed and a historical photograph appropriate to the site of each sign. They can be found at convenient stopping places -- from Lake O’Law, Lake Ainslie and Big Intervale -- through to the Harbour. Seven will be installed early in June; an additional five later in the month as funds permit. So, look for them at such places as Lake O’Law, Doyle’s Bridge and other sites. The one below? is the East Margaree Crossing, featuring a photo from a century ago taken from the Notman Archives at the McCord Museum in Montreal.
What Do Mussels Have To Do with Salmon?
Ever held an animal that’s over 200 years old? You may have the opportunity to do exactly that this summer.
The Eastern Pearl Mussel improves water quality, removes harmful metals from the environment, clears sediment from spawning areas, and helps predict Atlantic Salmon population. All this from a fellow with one foot that creates a misshapen pearl on the rare event icreates one at all.
Freshwater pearls, made popular in Scotland during medieval times, are largely the cause for their endangered status in Europe. The chance of finding an oyster pearl in the wild is estimated to be one in twelve thousand. It’s much less likely in a freshwater mussel, so your chances are vanishingly small. In fact, most freshwater pearls (the lumpy shaped ones) today are ‘seeded’ and grown in pearl farms China. Freshwater mussels were also used to make buttons and glasses (mother-of-pearl), and were crushed up to form the ‘grit’ required for oysters and other mussels to grow pearls. It takes about 25 years to grow a 4mm pearl so harvesting wild mussels is clearly a wasteful activity. Protected throughout the European Union, great efforts are being made to stock and re-establish this amazing creature. Much less is known about our native freshwater pearl mussels.
We welcome the chance to work with Kellie White at Cape Breton University developing and building our understanding of this amazing creature.
Adults are between 12 and 15cm long and live between two shells hinged at one end. The inside of the shell is pearly white and may be tinged with iridescent colours. Some are over two hundred years old. More commonly one finds them in the 80 to 100 range. Imagine mussels in the river right now born before the original Remembrance Day.
Pearl mussels love cold, fast flowing freshwater streams and rivers. The Margaree and her tributaries are likely to support large populations due to the prevalence of springs that feed the river, keeping it chilled even in these climate-change affected summers.
The source of the name ‘Margaree’ is unknown and its etymology offers many suggestions. Perhaps we can add to the speculation the Latin name for these mussels: margaritifera margaritifera.
I spoke to Kellie White at her office at CBU. Kellie has been studying mussels since the early 2000s and is expanding her work to include our river and its watershed. In fact, there is a great opportunity to help with her work by volunteering to screen areas of the river for Eastern Pearl Mussels later this summer (likely around the end of July).
Having worked with CBRM (the regional municipality formerly known as ‘Sydney’) for several years, White made this astonishing finding: the primary fresh water source for Sydney, Pottle Lake, has the freshest water of any lake in Nova Scotia. For a place we too often and too sadly have associated with environmental problems, we should all give Sydney a rousing, ‘Way to go, Bud!’
Most of the mussels in Pottle Lake are Yellow Lampmussels, a more oyster-looking relation. But a significant number of the Lake’s mussels are Pearl, and Ms. White thinks these are worth of deeper study.
An intriguing part of the work on Pearl Mussels found that the larvae, known as glochidia, once ejected from the female mussel require a host to feed, nurture and carry them to new areas. Enter our king of fish, the Atlantic Salmon.
Cruising salmon inhale glochidia which latch on to their oxygen rich gills. Here they’ll stay (hanging on for dear life) overwintering with the kelts until the following May or June when they’ll drop off, hopefully in fresh new grounds. This inhaling and travelling process has a very low success rate. Each female releases between one and four million glochidia, who have to find themselves in the path of a fish in order to survive. The majority of them are swept away, feeding other organisms. This means they make a very dependable bio-indicator for the presence of salmon. You can’t have a good population of 2-3 year old mussels if you don’t have a good population of fish. Along with the salmon, Brook and Brown trout are also thought to be good hosts.
Mussels that do settle into the substrate grow quickly. From a larva stage size of 0.6-0.7mm, they’ll be recognizable at less than a centimetre as tiny mussels seeking a space between bits of gravel and rock in the river. There they’ll bury about a third of their length in the riverbed using their muscular ‘foot’. They can move about this way too although it is thought they don’t move very far over their lifetimes.
At homes in their shells, they get down to work feeding on water-borne particles siphoned into their soft bodies. This cleans a lot of water. Along with clarifying it, they also remove from the environment many things we consider dangerous. Metals like cadmium, magnesium, and iron are sucked out of the water and stored in their shells and bodies - removed from the active environment for a century or two.
In Sydney, Kellie’s studies are helping the Municipality to work on a plan to use organic mussels as the first line of water treatment for its residents. Water may pumped into tanks containing mussels for twenty-four hours or so, lowering the amount of time and money required to purify drinking water.
Pearl Mussels mature in about ten or fifteen years. They will then populate and procreate for another seventy-five years or so - and releasing an astonishing 200m larvae during their lifetimes.
MSA will be assisting CBU and Kellie White in her studies this summer. If you would like to participate in surveying stretches of stream, tributary and the river, please email or contact the office.
Winter Work at the Margaree Fish Hatchery
In March I stopped by the Margaree Fish Hatchery — and was promptly put to work!
Trout and salmon parr grown over the fall and winter will soon be ready for release into the river. To ensure the integrity of wild fish, all hatchery fish are ‘fin clipped’ making identification of bred fish quick and definitive in subsequent studies.
The adipose fin is on the ventral surface just ahead of a fish’s tail or caudal fin. It is a soft, fleshy fin. Fins serve many functions on a fish—stabilizing, turning, stopping, dynamic lift—yet only a select few families of fish have adipose fins. Salmon and trout are our prime area of interest, but catfish have them too.