TRCA’s Environmental Monitoring & Data Management team undertake special short-term environmental monitoring projects to assess the ecological health of the regional watersheds and the Toronto waterfront.
During 2015 routine fisheries surveys, Toronto and Region Conservation discovered five Asian Carp in Toronto Harbour. Like many invasive species, these adaptive fish are capable of producing many offspring, can outcompete native fishes for food and habitat, and have few native predators to keep their populations in check. They can also act as carriers for diseases or parasites that could spread to native fishes. To prevent the establishment of Asian Carp in Greater Toronto Area waters, Toronto and Region Conservation will be conducting a surveillance monitoring program along the Toronto shoreline and harbour in 2016, in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with kind support from the RBC Blue Water Project.
If you have seen an Asian carp or other invasive species please contact Ontario’s Invading Species Hotline (toll-free) 1-800-563-7711 or report it online at EDD MapS Ontario.
Since 2005, Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) has worked in contract partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to collect sea lamprey during their spawning season (mid-April to mid-June) in an effort to reduce their impact on fish communities within Lake Ontario. There are traps built into the first weirs of the Humber River and Duffins Creek, with the intent of capturing the adult sea lamprey as they migrate upstream to spawn.
Sea lamprey are an invasive parasitic fish native to the Atlantic Ocean that voraciously feed on the bodily fluids of other fish using their suction cup mouth lined with teeth. The first reported occurrence of sea lamprey in the Great Lakes was in the 1830’s and it is believed that they entered the Great Lakes through the shipping channels. In the 1940’s and 50’s sea lamprey had a significant role in the collapse of the lake trout and whitefish fisheries, which have both been historic economic mainstays of the Great Lakes fishery.
TRCA continues to work with outside agencies that have a collaborative interest in fish community health for the benefit of not only TRCA’s jurisdiction but the Great Lakes Region overall.
Four den boxes have been established in Glen Major Forest by TRCA, as part of a fisher research study initiated in 2014 in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF). The den boxes are baited to attract female fishers to move in, have their kits and rear their young. Designed by TRCA, the boxes are a new approach to monitoring local fisher populations, having had limited success with just baited hair snare stations in the past. Motion activated trail cameras are attached to trees opposite each box to capture images of animals trying to access them. Each den box is equipped with a logging instrument to monitor internal temperatures if they become occupied by fishers. A sticky pad is placed at the top of the entrance hole for hair collection to be analyzed later for genetic profiling.
The resulting camera footage and hair samples from this study will enable TRCA and OMNRF to get an idea about the number and sex of fishers inhabiting Glen Major Forest, as well as their genetic profile in relation to neighbouring populations. This information will add to the knowledge of the fishers’ range and recolonization in parts of Ontario. Video documentation will provide additional insight and improve understanding of its natural behaviour. The boxes also help to facilitate habitat needs for this ‘area-sensitive’ mammal, who prefers large continuous mixed forests with a diversity of tree species and ages. Gaining a better understanding of the fisher and its habitat will help TRCA better monitor and manage wildlife resources now and in the future.
2015 marks the fifth year the Acoustic Telemetry research study has been underway. Thanks to this ‘high-tech’ fish tagging study, resource managers are learning how fish are using restored habitats in order to enhance or expand restoration efforts throughout the Toronto Harbour. In partnership with researchers from Carleton University and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, environmental monitoring crews from TRCA have tagged over 300 native and non-native fish with acoustic transmitters since 2010 in an effort to track their feeding and spawning activities 24 hours a day year-round. Researchers plan to outfit new fish with transmitters in 2016 thanks to funding provided by Environment Canada’s Great Lake Sustainability Fund, which will see the project continue for the next two years.
Understanding the mysteries of fish behavior, including where and how long fish are spawning and feeding throughout the seasons, will help TRCA continue to manage aquatic habitat along Toronto’s waterfront. The goal is to support a community of desirable native fish species as well as a self-sustaining fishery. Future plans for the project include expanding the study area to pick up acoustic signals from tagged fish travelling along the north shore of Lake Ontario. This information will help to answer questions about how fish move regionally and how agencies can work together to improve the health of Lake Ontario.
The Central Pickering Development Plan outlines the blueprint for a new urban community of up to 70,000 people and 35,000 jobs, along with a designated agricultural preserve on the west side of Duffins Creek. The Seaton project is unique because 53% or 1,520 ha of the planning area is designated as a Natural Heritage System (NHS) and will be retained in public ownership.
Due to the size and scale of this development, its sustainability aspects and the sensitivity of the nearby ecosystems, TRCA initiated a large-scale monitoring program in 2014 to evaluate the natural heritage of the Seaton development lands. TRCA will be monitoring both the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem (pre, during, and post development) to determine if the sustainability practices and the large natural heritage system are sufficient to protect the ecological integrity of the sensitive natural heritage features within the project boundaries. For example, the Seaton development lands are home to important local populations of the provincially endangered Redside Dace as well as the sensitive Brook Trout, which is the only remaining native Salmonid fish species naturally occurring in headwater sections of the Humber, Rouge, and Duffins watersheds.
Currently there are long-term monitoring plots set-up to track changes in vegetation and bird communities, as well as aquatic sites to monitor fish and benthic macroinvertebrate communities. Conductivity loggers, used to estimate chloride concentrations, as well as year-round temperature and water quality monitoring stations are also in place. Results from this monitoring program are expected to largely influence future planning decisions regarding the Seaton development lands and potentially future development activities in other TRCA watersheds.
Funded by the Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA), TRCA under contract by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) are involved in nearshore fish community identification and assessments at 24 sites along Toronto’s waterfront. Nearshore Community Index Netting (NSCIN) is an over-night netting program designed to evaluate abundance and other attributes (e.g. length, weight, age) of fish species that inhabit that littoral (i.e. close to shore) zone of Ontario lakes. The project follows the OMNRF’s NSCIN guidelines. To date, NSCIN trap netting has been conducted at the Toronto Waterfront in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012 and is scheduled again for 2016.
These nearshore fisheries surveys add to the knowledge gained through TRCA’s annual waterfront electrofishing surveys, which have been on-going since the 1960s in support of Toronto’s Remedial Action Plan (RAP).