Salmon officials confirm first application of rotenone in Miramichi watershed

·2 min read
The stream where Noxfish II, a chemical that includes rotenone, was applied on Sept. 8.  (CBC Shane Fowler - image credit)
The stream where Noxfish II, a chemical that includes rotenone, was applied on Sept. 8. (CBC Shane Fowler - image credit)

After years of protest, a pesticide has been released in the Miramichi watershed as part of a project to eradicate the invasive smallmouth bass.

Salmon conservation groups confirm Sept. 8 marked the first application of Noxfish II, a chemical that includes rotenone. It was released in Lake Brook and approximately 15 kilometres of the Southwest Miramichi River.

"Deactivation at the downstream extent of the project area continued until the evening of Sept.10 when it was confirmed that all of the rotenone had been flushed out of the project area," said Neville Crabbe, spokesperson for the Working Group on Smallmouth Bass Eradication in the Miramichi.

Crabbe said the project involves several treatments.

The second and final phase will involve the simultaneous treatment of Miramichi Lake, Lake Brook, and a stretch of the Southwest Miramichi River.

He said immediate results were promising.

"So there's that initial visual confirmation that they were affected, but it will take months really if not through 2023 to confirm ultimate success," he said.

Indigenous opponents of the project have been canoeing on the Miramichi Lake since early August to prevent the project from going ahead. These efforts successfully paused applications last year as the chemical isn't permitted to be applied when people are on the water.

Opponents have voiced concerns about not being consulted as well as potential long-term damage to native species in the ecosystem.

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

On Sept. 8, CBC reported opponents were on the lake in canoes but Crabbe said project crew members were the only ones seen on the water during the application.

"If people were there they would have seen our teams safely dressed in personal protective equipment using two primary delivery methods: drip cans set up on rocks and along the shorelines, and basically garden hoses from canoes," he said.

The eradication project is led by the North Shore Micmac District Council and a coalition of six other salmon conservation and wildlife protection organizations. Their shared goal is to eliminate the smallmouth bass population which threatens native species like trout and salmon.

According to Crabbe, the problematic bass was first discovered in Miramichi Lake in 2008.

Crabbe said he personally waded out into the water the day after it was treated.

"As predicted… I saw that fish had already moved in from upstream as well as the insect life and amphibian life," he said. "Frogs as predicted were there as well, so life was quickly returning to the treated area."