A fish pass for eels in Sept-Îles

A fish ladder for eels at Sept-Îles

UPGRADE DAY

Salmon fishways are widespread in Quebec rivers and also benefit eels, so much so that an environmental organization in Sept-Îles, on the North Shore, has installed one to allow American eel, an endangered species, to gain access to territory lost in the early 1960s. 

The Hall River dam has blocked the passage of eels for half a century. But since last year, this fish, often unloved, has had a gateway: the Duplessis watershed organization's fishway.

“It's really gratifying to finally be able to get all those eels into the river,” said Julie Fouquette Viens, project manager at the Duplessis watershed organization.

She takes care of counting and measuring all the eels that come up the pass. These excellent climbers are trapped in a net after climbing the aluminum ramp.

“At the very bottom, there is a big jet of water which is called the lure flow. It produces a falling sound. This is a clue to the eels that there is a place to climb. That'll bring them right up to the ramp downstairs. To allow them to go up, there is a system that causes a small flow of water in the corridors. The small pipes that are in the center of the corridors allow them to climb. That gives them good catches to be able to go up the pass which is rather steep.”

Since June, 1,400 eels have come up the river. They measured between 12 and 48 centimeters.

“It's a great opportunity for us to count the eels, look at what stage they are in their life cycle and be able to follow the population in this way- there,” she said.

The project aims to restore the eel population that has dropped dramatically in Quebec since the 1980s.

This fish, which is born and reproduces in the Sargasso Sea, near the Bahamas, lives in fresh and salt water.

Its decline is mainly due to pollution, overfishing, the presence of dams and mortality in turbines hydroelectric power stations.

Several other projects of this type have been carried out across Quebec, which has notably enabled the return this year of the American eel to the Saint-Charles River in Quebec City, thanks to an initiative of the Huron-Wendat nation.