Fishing for Clues

Alberta’s FSI (Fish Sustainability Index) keeps track of fish abundance, species distribution, and fish habitat in Alberta waterbodies. A standardized process of assessment feeds into government management and planning.

Currently we are working on our fifth watershed of the East Slopes Fisheries Inventory: James River. We’ve completed work in the Cardinal, Brazeau, Blackstone, and Elk River watersheds. For a few of these streams, this is the first inventory work conducted. The results of these inventories impact responsible land-use planning.

Typically, we complete 30 – 50 electrofishing sites per watershed. This is our most accurate and reliable method to identifying fish habitat, abundance, and distribution (or in some cases, fish absence).  At the moment, we’re working with an emphasis on bull trout, which are currently listed as Threatened

The work may sound rigid and predictable, but it can reveal game-changers. For instance, we documented bull trout spawning in the Owl River (a tributary to Elk River). No one knew. ACA has also identified a potentially isolated bull trout population in the headwaters of the unnamed (nicknamed Devil Forks) watershed in the Brazeau. Findings like these are essential clues to conservation.

Partners

West Fraser (two divisions in Sundre and Hinton/Edson) has been a dedicated partner for this work. They walk the walk—using the information we find and compile for their own land use planning, like prioritizing culvert repair and replacement.