It's hard to think of anything more discouraging that happened on PEI last week than the discovery of dead fish in the Trout River. Quite rightly people are reacting with anger and frustration. PEI, and certainly the potato industry, has another black eye no matter what the current investigation reveals.
Some questions I have, and don't forget that the investigation is just beginning. . Most fishkills happen later in the year when late blight is an issue, and fungicides are being applied. That's not the case now. Given the sediment in the water just after a rain, this would look to be caused by run-off of an insecticide. That's curious as well. Most farmers now use a product called Admire (imidichloprid) which is applied in the furrow during planting, and is then taken up as a systemic by the plant, so there's no need for additional spraying early in the crop year, and with no spraying no chance of run-off into waterways.
The bottom line for me continues to be field management. Are there a proper buffers around the Trout River given the slope of the field and the location of the headlands? So a few more questions:
1. Should the province do aerial/land surveillance of vulnerable land around waterways before there's a fishkill rather than after?
2. Will Environment Canada be ready to intervene this time using it's authority under the Fisheries Act?
3. Is it time to insist on proper riparian zones around waterways (trees and shrubs in the buffer zones.)
4. Should the dammer-dyker be required on sloping land around water ways. Previous posts on all these, with a search box at the bottom.
5. Why is it that some watersheds seem more vulnerable to fishkills than others (the Trout River is being devastated). Is it the geography of the watershed, the diligence or lack there-of of the farmer/s in the watershed? What's going on?
If a farmer/farmers are responsible this will be a stiff test for relatively new environment minister Janice Sherry. She has lived her married life on a potato farm, and represents a heavily farmed constituency. She had already promised a review of regulations because of last summer's much bigger fishkill, but at least the province then could point to buffer zone violations (that didn't stand up in court). If there are no violations here, her challenge becomes just that much harder. Growing potatoes is a tough business. So obviously is maintaining healthy rivers and fish stocks. We have to figure out a way that one doesn't come at the expense of the other. Given changing demographics, shifting political power, social media awareness, I think I know which will win out if fishkills don't stop.