Annapolis River - Slippery business
Eels and other catches of the Annapolis
Digby, at the western end of the Annapolis basin, has the world's largest fleet
of scallop draggers. The colourful mollusks, with their hinged, fan-shaped shell,
lie on the bottom of the sea or attach themselves to objects. The Annapolis basin
is also harvested for crabs and clams. At low tides, clam diggers collect clams
to sell or to cook right on the beach.
The American eel lives in the river, but goes to sea to spawn and die. Eel traps,
baited nets, and weirs are used to catch migrating eels in the fall. Catches
are exported live, iced, frozen, or smoked. Jellied eel is prized as a delicacy
in Great Britain.
Valley fishers also harvest the abundant supply of winter flounder which migrates
between the Bay of Fundy and the shallow salt marshes of the river. Flounder
are born with one eye on either side of their head just like other fish. But,
gradually, one eye migrates to join the other on just one side of the head. The
flounder is perfectly adapted to spending the rest of its life on its side, foraging
for food flat against the seabed or river bottom.
Sturgeon have been important in the Annapolis fishery. Identified by their sucker-like
mouths, white underbellies, and blue-black backs, sturgeon are bottom-feeders
who prefer deeper water. They are scaleless fish who have hooked plates along
their bodies to deter predators like the sea lamprey. Sturgeon eggs or roe are
made into expensive caviar.
Pollution and dam construction have limited the sturgeon numbers but they are
still caught in weirs and gill nets. The turbine blades of the Annapolis Tidal
Generating Station near the river's mouth are an enemy of the sturgeon as well
as other fish like shad.
The Annapolis River fishery suffers significantly from water pollution. Fish
quantity and quality are being affected by forestry, agriculture, and the construction
of roads, dams, and bridges. Erosion and the building up of silt affect the fish
stock as does the loss of aquatic vegetation. The growing number of fish farms
pollutes both scallop and clam beds. Annapolis clams must be kept in clean water
tanks to flush out bacterial content before they can be sold.
Annapolis River Project Society (CARP) has developed a program of
fishery rehabilitation and management for the Annapolis Valley.
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