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Canada's pristine freshwater fisheries at risk
Date:9/19/2007

esource extraction in Ontario has left little ground untouched and undisturbed watersheds now occur almost exclusively in the boreal region, the area north of 51 degrees.

"The fact that this region still contains major watersheds without a single dam and few roads makes this a world renowned destination for recreational fishing and other outdoor activities, as well as a critically important refuge for sensitive species like lake sturgeon," says scientist David Browne, the author of the report. Sturgeon are considered threatened throughout almost all of their worldwide range and populations have been declining in Southern Ontario.

Unlike more developed regions in southern Ontario, fish communities of the northern part of the province remain largely unaltered by species introductions, stocking, overexploitation or pollution. In fact, the current healthy condition of fisheries in this region provides an unprecedented opportunity to conserve abundant and diverse fish communities -- a challenge that will require proactive land-use planning coupled with hard science.

Freshwater ecosystems, meanwhile, are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Physical alteration, water withdrawal, overexploitation, pollution, and the introduction of non-native species have caused widespread habitat loss, degraded water quality, declines in aquatic species, and an overall loss of biodiversity. The report highlights a growing body of research that documents a number of important negative impacts to fish populations from the principal agents of change in Ontarios northern boreal forests.

The report culminates in a series of research and policy recommendations aimed at ensuring the outlook for northern Ontario freshwater ecosystems. These include establishing a Fisheries Research and Assessment Unit for the area above the current managed forest boundary, and enhancing knowledge of the distribution and status of fish in the region, particularl
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Contact: Stephen Sautner
ssautner@wcs.org
718-220-3682
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert

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