New report identifies significant improvements in Toronto Great Lakes Area of Concern

The Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan (RAP) is aimed at restoring the health of Toronto’s waters, fish, wildlife, and habitats. Since the RAP began in 1987, federal and provincial governments, municipalities, environmental groups and individuals have worked together to improve the environmental conditions in the Toronto RAP area. Implementation of remedial and restoration actions has led to significant and demonstrable improvements in the quality of water and sediment, the amount and condition of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and the health of aquatic biota and aquatic communities.

Our recently released 2015 Toronto and Region RAP Progress Report – Within Reach – outlines the key actions that have been carried out and the progress that has been made since the last Progress Report was prepared in 2007. This update highlights the positive strides we have made towards delisting success. To learn more about the RAP or to download a copy of the report please visit

Watch the video on the progress report

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Jon Gee, Manager, Great Lakes Area of Concern, Environment and Climate Change Canada

– You see huge improvements in fish and wildlife habitat. Fish are spawning on Toronto waterfront, pike spawn at the foot of Spadina Avenue in the slip there. A decade ago, who would have thought that would be even possible?

Brian Denney, CEO, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)

– The progress on urban water management, storm water management, now progressing to what we call low-impact development, has dealt with the realities of the intense urban pressures and TRCA with our many partners has led the way in implementing very comprehensive storm water management measures that, among other things, lead to a healthier lake.

Tom Edge, Research Scientist, Environment and Climate Change Canada

– We are a research group at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and we’re trying to apply things like microbial source tracking tools, so we’ve been working on Toronto beaches for many years now to make sure that we have clean waters for swimming. And you can see a lot of advancements from just bringing in the Blue Flag program to Toronto, which was sort of the first for Canada, and so there’s some very good, clean beaches that are a great sort of demonstration of the fact that you can go swimming in Lake Ontario.

Rick Portiss, Senior Manager, Environmental Monitoring Program, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)

– With the restoration activities between TRCA and its partners, we’ve seen a great shift into fishery as well as the conditions being more pristine and more conducive to the natural environment. There’s a lot of habitat, a lot of really beat areas that have shown quite diverse species, especially fish species and water fowl. It’s all coming together in a nice combination.

David Clark, Member, Toronto Urban Fishing Ambassadors

– Our members have observed a significant improvement in the quality of the fishery that would be reflected in improvement in fish diversity and species diversity. The overall health of the fish has improved. We’re not seeing deformities, the fish look cleaner, their fins are cleaner. It’s great to see all this work going on.

Jon Gee, Manager, Great Lakes Area of Concern, Environment and Climate Change Canada

– Great progress is being made in Toronto and in all the AoCs, and we’re really encouraged and the investment that’s made through the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund is paying off and you can see it just over my shoulder.

Key progress from 2008 to 2015

  • Phosphorus levels along the waterfront are no longer an issue and meet the mesotrophic target set for the RAP (although continued work on critical wet weather flow infrastructure is needed to ensure that this does not change).
  • There has been a substantial reduction in loadings of E. coli to the waterfront which has resulted in a steady decline in beach closings and the awarding of Blue Flag status to eight of Toronto’s eleven waterfront beaches.
  • The aesthetics of watercourses and the waterfront in the Toronto RAP area are generally considered excellent or good (meaning the water in rivers and along the waterfront is generally free of substances such as oil slicks or surface scum).
  • Bottom sediments along the waterfront are getting cleaner and will continue to improve as critical wet weather flow infrastructure projects are completed.
  • The health of benthic communities has improved as a result of cleaner sediments.
  • After decades of decline as urbanization has taken place, the amount of habitat (natural cover) is relatively stable in the TRCA jurisdiction, which includes the Toronto RAP area.
  • The restoration of habitats and the creation of hundreds of hectares of terrestrial and aquatic habitat along streams and along the waterfront have improved conditions for both fish and wildlife.
  • Aquatic habitat improvements including the creation and restoration of habitats for migration, spawning, nursery, feeding, shelter and overwintering support an increased diversity of fish species along the waterfront and the north shore of the Inner Harbour.
  • In terms of ecosystem health, the fish community along the waterfront is “fair”, with a proportion of top predator fish that is approaching (or perhaps is at) a healthy level.
  • Levels of contaminants (mercury and PCBs) in fish continue to decline and there are no restrictions on consumption of many resident fish due to contaminants.
  • Fish-eating wildlife in the Toronto RAP area are not at risk from contaminants.