Fish were found floating in a ditch in Pitt Meadows. (Contributed)

Dead fish floating in Pitt Meadows ditch

Fish are in waterways that can become toxic environments, says Watershed Watch

The pictures, showing fish floating in a ditch, would be a concern to any naturalist.

Mission resident Alfred Miller took the photos in Pitt Meadows on June 26, and reported them to Wildsafe B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, local environmental groups and the Green party. His pictures were taken on Old Dewdney Trunk Road.

Miller was frustrated when nobody responded.

“Nobody seems to be interested,” said Miller. “I think it needs further investigation.”

The ditch looks like habitat that would only be suitable for a frog, but fish are there in the ditches around Pitt Meadows, said Lina Azeez of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

Her group is working toward creating healthy fish habitat in the Katzie Slough that runs through Pitt Meadows. The ditch in question connects to the slough, although it is choked with vegetation in places.

“Fish are really resilient – chum have been found in ditches two feet wide,” she said.

Azeez speculated no government organizations got involved because the dead fish appear to be an invasive species called pumpkin seed.

“Which is unfortunately an invasive fish in B.C., so there would not be a lot of concern about them dying.”

READ ALSO: Pet goldfish invades small B.C. lake

But the water conditions that led to the death of this comparatively hardy fish should be concerning, said Azeez.

She explained fish die in waterways like the one photographed because of a lack of oxygen. Invasive plants literally choke these waterways. Aquatic plants absorb the oxygen in the water, and fish die.

Warm weather that week, a lack of shade on the waterway, and the lack of water flow would create the conditions where that fish die-off could happen.

Azeez said it is important for people reporting such an incident to get a water sample in a clear bottle or jar, so the water quality can be tested.

Without that, observers can only speculate about what caused the fish to die.

Randy Evans, operations superintendent with the City of Pitt Meadows, said the city was unaware of these dead fish, but he has seen similar incidents where fish suddenly die in the waterways around the city – although not frequently.

He said the water in the ditch generally does not flow – about 80 per cent of the water in the drainage system is stagnant. The only fresh source is rain water, so these kinds of die-offs generally occur when there has not been rain.

“There’s no oxygen left, and the fish would die,” he said. “It’s not a good environment for fish.”

He also identified the fish as pumpkin seed, and noted heron and predators would quickly clean up the dead fish.

Evans said while the natural conditions in the waterway are potentially deadly to fish, he did not rule out something toxic being dumped that would have killed them.

He said the city could test a water sample from a possible fish kill. He added that staff would watch this ditch to make sure nothing toxic was being introduced.

READ ALSO: Stepping up for wildlife and the environment

Azeez advised people to contact the Environment Ministry through its Report All Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-877-952-RAPP, and if salmon are involved they can contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada at 1-800-465-4336.

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