Use of fish-killing pesticide in Miramichi watershed on pause

·3 min read
Crews remove barrels of rotenone from boats to be taken away.  (Shane Fowler - image credit)
Crews remove barrels of rotenone from boats to be taken away. (Shane Fowler - image credit)

A plan to eradicate smallmouth bass from Miramichi Lake and part of the southwest Miramichi River has been temporarily suspended.

The project was supposed to begin earlier this week but was delayed after several Wolastoqey grandmothers and mothers took to their canoes and kayaks on the lake so the chemical couldn't be applied.

Barrels of rotenone, a fish-killing pesticide, were lifted from boats and put on trucks Friday morning as boats were taken out of the water and crews began to leave the site.

A working group made up of several agencies, including the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the North Shore Micmac District Council and the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, planned to use the chemical to kill invasive smallmouth bass, which are threatening the salmon population.

Shane Fowler
Shane Fowler

"It's bittersweet," said Brandy Stanovich, who arrived at the lake on Tuesday morning. "Because you feel so good to have the support and have people come and thank you and protect this place as well, but at the same it shouldn't be happening at all, and there's people that are really fighting to have it happen."

Stanovich said she hiked several hours on Tuesday morning to get past the roadblock set up by peace officers and to the lake.

Project supporters denied junction

On Thursday afternoon, the Atlantic Salmon Federation filed an injunction to have the group removed from the lake, as the chemical could not be applied while people were on it.

In the motion, the federation said it had mobilized a large contingent of highly expert technical personnel, equipment operators, suppliers and other individuals as well as sophisticated technical equipment, which is essential to its operations.

But that injunction was dismissed by a judge that afternoon.

The North Shore Micmac District Council, which works on community development and other services with seven Mi'kmaw First Nations, has supported the rotenone project, but on Friday, Mi'kmaw chiefs expressed concerns about the level of consulttion with Wolastoqey First Nations.

Shane Fowler
Shane Fowler

Mi'gmaq Chiefs of New Brunswick released a statement saying the conversation between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the First Nations had not been adequate.

"The Wolastoqey Nation did not receive all the information it asked for and did not receive proper advance notice of the planned treatment," the statement said. "North Shore Micmac District Council (NSMDC) acknowledges that not all community members received relevant materials related to this project and that better efforts should have been made to ensure information about the project was shared."

The North Shore Micmac District Council did not respond to CBC's request for an interview.

Spokesperson for the project Neville Crabbe said there had been two years of Crown-led Indigenous consultation on the project, but recognized there needed to be more.

"We accept responsibility for that and are determined to reach out and reassure those people with facts and information about what we are, what we are going to do," said Crabbe.

"Which is a conservation project in the interest of the ecosystem of the Miramichi River, for the benefit of future generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous New Brunswickers."

Crabbe said there was a cost of at least $30,000 a day to delay. He said scientists and crews had come from California, Montana, British Columbia and Maine to help with the application.

Crabbe says there are plans to ensure the project goes ahead in the coming weeks.

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