Catch-and-release only now for Red Deer River
A catch-and-release only restriction has been placed on the Red Deer River and its tributaries from upstream of the Dickson Dam all the way to the Banff National Park boundary as a result of the oil leaked into the river in June.
The restriction was effective Aug. 7 and was put in place by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
Jessica Potter, a spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, said the ban was being put in place now instead of back when the spill happened partially because the focus was elsewhere in the immediate aftermath.
“The focus was on cleanup,” Potter said. The spill occurred after there was a leak in a Plains Midstream pipeline that released an estimated 1,000-3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil into the Red Deer River north of Sundre in early June.
The goal of the catch-and-release only policy is to look for long-term impacts of the spill on the various species of fish that inhabit the river, Potter said. She said the study will look at the biology, ecology and physiology of the fish.
The restriction covers such a wide area because the fish move, Potter said.
“Fish do actually move upstream,” Potter said.
The policy is in place for the rest of the angling season and applies to Glennifer Lake and the Dickson Trout Pond in addition to the Red Deer River and its tributaries. Anglers can keep fish caught in Burnstick Lake and other stocked trout lakes and ponds.
“We’re considering it a proactive and precautionary program,” Potter said.
The requirement could last longer than just this season, Potter said.
“We don’t know if there’s any effects,” Potter said, but she added by putting in the zero-harvest policy now they can better assess any impacts on the fish. The initial efforts will focus on analyzing the tissue of fish for any contaminants.
Potter said 25 fish have been found dead in the area post-oil leak.
“We expect the results will be made public,” Potter said of any reports that come out of the study. She wasn’t sure when the study would be complete or a report released.
According to the most recent update from Plains Midstream, as of Aug. 3 the command centre has been relocated from the site near Glennifer Lake to a gravel pit nearer the river. The release said gill nets were set up the week of Aug. 3 to sample fish tissue and aquatic habitat assessments are in the draft stage.
Provincial recreation areas near Glennifer Lake are now open. Susan Johnson, a spokesperson with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, said there had been closures due to cleanup after flooding in mid-June.
“Everything’s open now,” Johnson said.