Number of dead fish found in Cardigan River now tops 300

After searching 800 meters of river over the past few days, provincial officials say the total number of dead fish in P.E.I.'s Cardigan River now sits at over 300.

The cause of the fish kill in the eastern Prince Edward Island river is still uncertain, the province said.

According to a statement from the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action, the dead species include brook trout, rainbow trout, juvenile salmon and stickleback.

The fish were found near the 48 Road in Cardigan, according to the statement.

Rosie MacFarlane, a freshwater fisheries biologist with the P.E.I.'s forest, fish and wildlife division, responded to the reported fish kill on Friday.

Freshwater fisheries biologist Rosie MacFarlane is concerned about Atlantic salmon, which are considered a species of special concern on Prince Edward Island.
Rosie MacFarlane, a freshwater fisheries biologist with the province, collected samples of affected fish. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"I received a call mid-morning from a conservation officer," she said. "They had a call on their after-hours phone the night before about dead fish in the Cardigan River."

She met the officer at the site and confirmed the fish kill. They then collected some of the fish and called the province's Environmental Emergency Response team to come and take water samples.

The next stage of the process was to send samples of the fish to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown and an Environment and Climate Change Canada lab in Moncton for testing.

Samples of the dead fish are currently being analyzed
Samples of the dead fish are currently being analyzed. (Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action)

Fish kills can happen for several reasons, including algal blooms, droughts, infectious diseases, or heavy rain washing silt into a shallow water system, possibly accompanied by traces of agricultural or industrial chemicals.

MacFarlane couldn't say how long it will be before the exact cause of the Cardigan fish kill is determined.

The river is closed to all angling until further notice.