The St. Lawrence river, a victim of the heat wave: endangered species

Le fleuve Saint-Laurent victime de la canicule: des espèces en danger

MONTREAL | The water has rarely been so hot in the river St. Lawrence, a situation which makes the happiness of some fishermen for the moment, but that worries scientists and the tourism industry.

“Even at 30 meters of depth, it is still hot. It oscillates between 10-13 degrees, while the average is between -1 and 4. There have already been periods like that two, but here it is three weeks as it is!” said the photographer Patrick Bourgeois, who spends his summers on the North Shore for over 10 years as a dive guide.

The data on the website of the global Observatory of the Saint-Laurent confirmed his findings. Saturday, the temperatures recorded at the surface of the river greatly exceeded the 15 degrees off of Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles, while last year at the same date, the mercury will struggle to reach 10 degrees. In 2017 and 2018, the waters were even colder.

“I’ve never seen it. The river is a desert on the surface; there was no whale, no seal, no porpoise… there is no snow crab. I saw my first jellyfish mane of the lion today, whereas usually it is a featured during my trips,” said Patrick Bourgeois, who noted a particularly high number of lobsters in her corner of the country.

Fisherman happy

The phenomenon is not new: the lobster has a tendency to flee the temperatures become too warm from Maine to settle in the Gaspé peninsula and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Anticosti island is also host to populations of more and more important since few years, so that the temperature of the water there has become comfortable for this crustacean.

“Last year, we had already broken records, but there, beat up records of records. The fishing ends today in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the number of shots should be between 13 and 14 million. The past year, there was 11 million”, was illustrated by the director-general of the quebec Association of the fishing industry, Jean-Paul Gagné, who added, however, that this abundance was not going to result in a decrease in the price at the grocery store, such as the value of the lobster has already been lowered due to the pandemic.

It is not only the commercial fishermen who take advantage of the upheavals of the aquatic fauna. Because of warming waters, the mackerel is also more present in the St. Lawrence river.

“On the note for several years, but now, it is really more than usual,” noted Simon Turcotte, a fisherman from Baie-Comeau who engages in this hobby for the past fifteen years.

It also welcomes the fact that the striped bass bite much more often on the hook. However, the return of these fish in the estuary concerned about the salmon angler. Biologists don’t know whether these two species can co-exist at the mouths of rivers that flow into the river.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely, but for now, it’s going well. It was a great season”, wanted to reassure Myriam Bergeron, a biologist and director general of the quebec Federation for the atlantic salmon.

Beluga whales in danger

The veterinarian, Daniel Martineau, to him, is more of a worry for the beluga if the river continued to warm up that way.

“It is important to know that the beluga whale lives precisely at the mouth of the Saguenay river, because there is a microclimate sub possible thanks to a current from Labrador. They are isolated and cannot migrate to the Arctic,” said the one who was the first to perform a necropsy on a beluga whale in Quebec.

The population of beluga whales in the St. Lawrence river is considered for 20 years now as on the verge of extinction.

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