Monitoring the St. Lawrence

Monitoring the St. Lawrence


The St. Lawrence is an ecosystem made up of
a wide variety of habitats that are home to an equally large variety of vegetation and
wildlife. Most of Quebec’s population lives in the St.
Lawrence valley and is concerned about its state of health.
“We have concerns about sedimentation, about fish reproduction.”
Paul Messier, Director General, Société d’aménagement de la baie Lavallière
” … the water quality, the state of fish populations, and of sea mammals.”
Sarah-Emily Hébert-Marcoux, Acting Director, Côte-Nord du Golfe ZIP Committee Environment Canada monitors the St. Lawrence
in various ways. “Environment Canada is one of the partners
that help collect data and information to determine the state of health of different
aspects of the St. Lawrence. Our work is a bit like a doctor’s: we analyze certain aspects
of the St. Lawrence in order to regularly take stock of its health and share this information
with the population and decision-makers.” Hélène Bouchard, Manager, Freshwater Quality
Monitoring and Surveillance — Atlantic Watershed, different locations to find out the contamination
rates for toxic substances and nutrients. The water quality analysis is particularly
important in areas where molluscs are harvested. “By identifying the sources of contamination
in the environment and assessing the bacteriological quality of the water, Environment Canada ensures
that those molluscs are safe for consumption, in order to protect public health.” Jacques
Sénéchal, Head, Marine Water Quality Monitoring – Quebec Region, Environment Canada The sediments also provide information on the quality of the environment.
“We carry out these analyses mainly to determine what contaminants are found in the sediment.
So we test two types of sediment: riverbed sediments, for recent information, and we
take sediments cores to see the record or the history of contamination in the St. Lawrence
River.” Magella Pelletier, Sedimentologist, Fresh
Water Quality Monitoring – Atlantic Watershed, Environment Canada Moreover, Environment Canada studies the effect of contaminants on diversity and on the number
of aquatic organisms living on the riverbed or beneath the sediment surface.
Some bird species also provide information on the state of the St. Lawrence. Environment
Canada monitors Northern gannet populations, their reproduction, and the contaminants they
contain, as well as monitoring contaminants in the great blue herons to learn about the
condition of the environment. In addition to these analyses and monitoring,
Environment Canada regularly measures the water flow and level, in part to determine
how they affect the habitats of St. Lawrence fauna and flora.
“Tracking the state of the St. Lawrence is critical, because the river offers us so many
opportunities. It’s an international seaway, it’s a highly diverse living environment for
wildlife and plants, it’s a source of tourism and recreational activities, it inspires our
artists. And when you look at it from that perspective, it’s absolutely crucial to take
care of it and know how its condition changes over time so that we can preserve it properly.
Hélène Bouchard, Manager, Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Surveillance — Atlantic Watershed, Environment Canada

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