All Together Now…
Welcome to the March/april issue of Canadian Wildlife. What do eels in the Ottawa River and grasslands on the Prairies have in common? The answer, surprisingly, is a lot! First, they both play important roles in their respective ecosystems. Second, they have both played important parts in the history and culture of this land. Third, today both are in danger of disappearing. Finally, they are both issues on which the Canadian Wildlife Federation has been focusing a great deal of attention and energy. That’s why they are also both subjects of in-depth articles in this issue.
As you will see in regular contributor Brian Banks’ feature on page 28, CWF is actively involved in efforts to aid in the recovery of the American eel throughout the Ottawa River watershed. CWF is working in collaboration with government, First Nations, non-government organizations, community and industry to better understand the state of the American eel population, their upstream migration movements and their habitat preference in the Ottawa River so we can create effective recovery efforts in the future.
The American eel, a unique native fish, is one of the most remarkable and vulnerable fish species in Eastern Canada. An extremely important part of this area’s First Nations culture, the eel is a traditional source of food and medicine that was also used for many tools, utensils and clothing. One of the few species capable of living in both salt and fresh water, it starts out in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean before migrating along oceanic currents to the many freshwater streams and rivers along North America’s east coast. Eels make their homes there for many years before heading all the way back to their places of origin in the Atlantic. It is an incredible story. Sadly, over the past 30 years, the population of American eel in the Ottawa River has decreased by 90 per cent, and they are now designated as a species at risk in Ontario. We look into why this happened and what can be done, and what is being done now. Positive change is in the offing!
Prairie grasslands, featured here in an article by Niki Wilson on page 18, are also complex and endangered. Unassuming and underappreciated, this precious ecosystem has played a central role in the history and growth of this country for centuries, even millennia. Home to a diverse collection of rare plant, insect and animal species including at-risk species like the burrowing owl and swift fox, more than 60 per cent of a contiguous stretch of the Prairies ecozone encompassing 465,000 square kilometres (nearly 5 per cent of the country’s landmass) has been lost forever. This loss has affected plants and animals that were traditionally used for food, medicines and tools like the bison, a key species for First Nations. As Carolyn Callaghan, a conservation biologist here at the Canadian Wildlife Federation who specializes in this region, says, “Every scrap of native prairie grassland left is precious. We need to keep what we have.” I invite you to learn more here, and visit Canadianwildlifefederation.ca for even more.
At CWF, we are all committed to inspiring, educating and motivating even more Canadians to get involved. We are grateful for your interest in and support of this crucial work. Together, we are making a difference.