Ensuring the Protection of Alberta’s Environment – the 2020 Compliance Assurance Annual Report

The compliance team within Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) is responsible for responding to known or potential environmental emergencies or complaints from the public.

“We deal with everything from the release of toxic substances into a waterbody to the unauthorized use of public lands in the province,” says Owen Butz, AEP Compliance Manager.

Responding to environmental emergencies

The compliance team tracks every complaint or report received and its related response. This action not only tracks trends over time but also ensures that compliance work is open and accessible.

All the compliance activities conducted over the last year by AEP are listed in the publicly-released Compliance Assurance Annual Report, providing documented statistics that show how each reported incident is acted upon.

“We take every report, complaint and call very seriously – we’re all stewards of the environment,” adds Owen.

The Compliance Assurance Annual Report includes the work of the department’s Support and Emergency Response Team (ASERT). This team – as the name implies – is responsible for responding to environmental emergencies.  A key part of that work is to ensure preparedness and coordination of response with other agencies, partners, and provincial or federal governments.

The ASERT team continually seeks out new technologies or best practices to improve Alberta’s emergency preparedness and response. For example, last year they used drone flights to document the appearance of an aquatic invasive species in Alberta. Drones have also been used to assess the extent of environmental contamination in the event of a collision, and to identify spills and their extent.

“Drones have made safe and affordable to access difficult-to-access or unsafe locations. In the past, it would have been very costly to get aerial image or video because you would need a plane or a helicopter,” expressed Owen.

Compliance isn’t just about responding to emergencies, though – a significant part of the compliance team’s work involves education and prevention to promote compliance long-term. If education and prevention efforts aren’t enough, the team is equipped with a diverse enforcement toolkit to track and reverse non-compliance, and if required, punish offenders. 

“We want to be as proactive as possible and use education to increase awareness and compliance,” says Owen. “Regulatory requirements are in place to protect our environment – and Albertans.  Most people want to do the right thing. However, we do have tools in place to ensure enforcement and we will use them if necessary.”

Enforcement measures include the use of creative sentencing in the court process, such as taking the funds from paid fines and diverting them to environmental improvement projects.

For example, the Edmonton Native Plant Society received creative sentencing funds to re-establish natural vegetation in two former farmers’ fields that are part of the Wagner Natural Area near Spruce Grove.

Creative funds were also diverted to the Telus World of Science following an air pollution incident in Hinton. The funds are being used to increase air quality awareness and knowledge among Alberta students, teachers and the public. The funds will create a classroom-teaching unit on air quality, a hands-on monitoring tool to allow students to take real time air quality measurements. More examples of creative sentencing projects are listed in the annual report.

To learn more about environmental response and preparedness, while ensuring the accomplishments of Alberta’s compliance team are accessible to everyone, visit:  Compliance Assurance Annual Report.

Quick stats about the 2020 Compliance Assurance Annual Report

From April 2019 to March 2020, Alberta Environment and Parks:

  • Received almost 10,000 environmental emergencies or complaint calls – every complaint and report is followed-up
  • Completed more than 2,000 inspections
  • Sent 130 warning letters
  • Issued 36 orders to either prevent and/or correct damages, compel parties to prevent environmental harm, properly manage water or vacate public land.
  • Issued 16 administrative penalties
  • Completed nearly 200 surface material lease royalty audits
  • Charged one company, seven individuals and three municipalities for offences under legislation administered by the department.
  • Concluded four prosecutions

Stocking fish into remote access lakes – one heli of a ride!

Another year, another completed season of fish stocking into Alberta waterbodies!

Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) stocked a variety of fish species into various waterbodies across the province in the spring and fall, as water temperatures are too warm in the summer. Stocking is simple: fish are transported from provincial fish hatcheries directly to a waterbody that doesn’t usually see these game fish species. Fish are traditionally stocked into the water through a large hose; however, if road access is challenging, these fish need an extra lift to get there.

Fish are transferred from the hatchery truck into buckets, which are then carried onto the helicopter.

Helicopter stocking (or heli-stocking) is the ideal choice (and just plane awesome!) to stock waterbodies that cannot be accessed with a vehicle. Access can be remote and require hiking, ATV, snowmobiling or other methods. However, it is worth the journey as these areas are well-used and loved by anglers since they provide a unique and secluded destination for fishing. The use of heli-stocking allows fisheries biologists to deliver these exclusive angling opportunities whilst reducing angling pressure on natural fish populations. This year, AEP staff documented the stocking process for Lily Lake in the Slave Lake region.

Approximately 3,600 brook trout and 325 tiger trout fish first took off from the Cold Lake Fish Hatchery to arrive for stocking in Lily Lake. But first, the hatchery truck had one stopover: the Marten Fire Tower on Marten Mountain where it would meet the helicopter and specially-trained Agriculture and Forestry wildfire staff to bring the fish to their final destination. Marten Mountain is a well-known look out point with access to a popular hiking trail down to Lily Lake. This is also the perfect location to meet, land and load the helicopter for fish stocking.

The helicopter hovers about 1m from the water surface in order to release the fish into Lily Lake.
Alberta Wildfire staff stocking Tiger Trout into Lily Lake.

Three loads transported a total of nine buckets of fish on a short 1km flight down to Lily Lake. This was an especially exciting trip as the tiger trout were first-time fliers in Lily Lake, whereas the brook trout are known as frequent fliers and have historically been stocked in this area. Once the helicopter arrives, it hovers about a 1m from the water surface, so the staff can dump around 1,800 fish from the buckets into the waterbody (per trip!) – now that’s one heli of a ride for these fish!

One of the 325 Tiger Trout ready to be released into Lily Lake for the first time, alongside 3,600 Brook Trout.

Staff and fish were literally flying high! For anglers, this provides you with diverse fishing opportunities within Alberta, as 240 waterbodies are stocked every year.

Always be sure to #KnowBeforeYouGo as sportfishing regulations differ at each waterbody! If Lily Lake is on your radar, a fishing licence is required and only two brook trout are allowed to be kept, whereas tiger trout are solely catch and release.

Safe travels!

Peregrine Falcon Recovery Taking Flight in Alberta

Peregrine falcon – taken by Gordon Court

Did you know that in Alberta, we are successfully recovering peregrine falcons, a predatory bird at the brink of extinction?

Species at risk recovery is not easy – but it is possible – and very rewarding for all involved.

In the late 1960s, the pesticide DDT had devastating impacts on a number of organisms, including predatory birds like peregrine falcons. The pesticide caused peregrine eggshells to be thinner than normal. The egg shell broke before the baby birds could be born. As a result, the population declined significantly; almost wiping out peregrine falcons across the world. By 1970, only one pair of peregrines existed in Alberta and by 1975, they were considered extinct locally in Canada south of the boreal forest and east of the Rocky Mountains.

“I was only 12 or 13 years-old when they announced the disappearance of the last pair peregrines to nest in the prairies in Canada” says Gordon Court, Provincial Wildlife Status Biologist with Alberta Environment and Parks. Gordon is now one of the provincial leads on peregrine falcon recovery in the province.

DDT was banned in Canada in 1969 and in the early 1970s, provincial and federal governments started the peregrine falcon recovery program. They took every pair of peregrine falcons they could find and brought them to Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, Alberta. At the Base, they started a captive breeding program. The peregrines were bred and held at the Canadian Forces Base until the pesticides disappeared enough from the landscape to re-introduce the birds. Peregrine falcons were slowly introduced back into their habitats starting in 1976 until the mid 90s.

More recently, Gordon and his colleagues are continuing the work on peregrine falcon recovery – and they are seeing success.

“We have seen tremendous success” said Gordon “There are now over 500 pairs that have been re-established across southern Canada.”

The City of Edmonton has nine peregrine falcon pairs. They sometimes like to nest on industrial buildings and wildlife biologists keep a close eye on those pairs. For example, one adult female laid five eggs on top of the Bell Tower in Edmonton. She successfully laid and hatched all five – something that would never have been recorded during the DDT era in southern Canada.

A brood of peregrine falcon young on the Bell Tower in downtown Edmonton.

Peregrines seem to be making themselves right at home across their former habitats. “We hear of so many interesting peregrine stories,” says Gordon. “This year, we had peregrines return to nest sites they haven’t occupied in over 60 years and came back to nest within metres of where their ancestors nested.”

Even though these birds never nested in these sites themselves, whatever attracted them to the cliffs in the 1950s still attracts them to the same cliffs today.  

One of the more interesting facts about peregrine falcons is they have a fantastic flying ability. “Peregrines were recognized as the fastest thing that ever lived – before airplanes were invented” said Gordon. “Nowadays, people go skydiving with them. One skydiver took a GPS with him and recorded a peregrine diving at 389 kilometres per hour!”

When asked what a typical day of peregrine falcon recovery looks like, Gordon said “we make sure as many young peregrines that are born every year fledge successfully from their nests.” Fledging is the stage in a flying animal’s life between hatching or birth and becoming capable of flight – the more young birds fledged, the faster the recovery.

“In nests that show high mortality, we take them out and move them to release sites where they are more likely to survive. We do lab work – measuring peregrine residues and tissues to make sure the species is doing well – and we have the best peregrine tissue studies in Canada. It really explains why the bird is recovering so well now.”

A technician prepares peregrine falcon eggs for analysis.

The biggest task though is the peregrine population survey, which happens every five years – and the next step for peregrine falcon recovery in Alberta is to count them one more time.

“We had three recovery goals for peregrine falcons in Alberta. Two of them have been met already and the third is to count more than 70 pairs in Alberta. If we meet the final recovery goal, the species could be re-listed from Threatened to a species of special concern” said Gordon.

The next provincial survey is scheduled for 2020-21.

This is great news for the species – and for Alberta. Peregrine falcon recovery has given us important information about species recovery in general. “As a young person, the sense of doom that we had regarding peregrine falcons was very present. We got the sense that the issue was way bigger than we could control. What we learned though, is that the world is remarkably resilient. Who would have thought we could recover these birds in less than 50 years? It’s very encouraging.”

When asked what advice Gordon would have for younger generations, he said “what this teaches us is that no issue is too big to tackle. If you have the right momentum, you can turn things around. This is a story I like to tell young people who are facing similar concerns in the world right now.”

Citizen scientists, industry and government working together to monitor Alberta’s grizzly bears

By Jeannine Goehing, Office of the Chief Scientist

Innovation sometimes starts with little handwritten paper notes –– notes like the ones Courtney Hughes, Biodiversity and Landscape Specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks, and her team used to get from locals to report grizzly bear sightings in Alberta’s Lower Peace region.

“If they knew our phone number, people would call or text sightings and human-grizzly bear interactions, or they’d email us,” recalls Courtney. “A colleague, Lyle Fullerton, even received little handwritten notes reading things like ‘Saw grizzly down the road on the left’ on his truck windshield when parked in the field.”

While these grassroots efforts to contribute data were helpful, a more systematic approach was needed. “We needed a better way to collect this information while engaging the local land users and stakeholders to better contribute to scientific decision-making,” she elaborates.

The need for a more standardized and automated data collection tool to support citizen science lead to the new smartphone app ‘GrizzTracker’, which has transformed public grizzly bear reporting in remote parts of Alberta for the last few years, and is ready to go province-wide.

Tools like this app are giving us the chance to do better conservation science while engaging people,” Courtney says. “It’s an exciting time to be monitoring bears.”

Grizzly bear cub

A personal photograph of a grizzly bear cub in 2015, courtesy of Wanda Watts

Citizen science to fill knowledge gaps

In response to concerns about bear mortality and population sustainability, Alberta’s grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) have been listed as a threatened species since 2010, meaning they are protected by a provincial recovery policy that restricts hunting, and requires population and habitat research and educational outreach to address risks to bear survival.

The province’s grizzly bear population was estimated to be approximately 700 bears as of a 2010 status report, though recent population research across Alberta is providing additional information on bear density and distribution. Grizzly bear habitat spans from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the boreal forest in the northwest. In Alberta’s northwest – in the management zone called Bear Management Area 1 –  the number of grizzly bears and their distribution is not well understood, however. This is largely due to the difficult, wet and boggy terrain of the boreal forest and the associated costs of undertaking time-intensive population research.

However, understanding where grizzlies live and how many bears there are is essential to addressing the provincial recovery requirements and informing management decisions.

Citizen science is one approach to collecting better knowledge; by working together, citizens, industry operators, landowners, and government can cover large geographic areas and contribute data to help advance scientific knowledge. Enlisting citizen scientists was a no-brainer for Courtney and the team.

“Engaging people in reporting grizzly bear observations, especially across remote areas where we (staff) may not be, not only makes good sense to complement existing DNA-based population inventorying, it’s considered essential to achieving recovery objectives,” Courtney explains.

“I’m very passionate about the people side, because it’s people who do conservation. If we weren’t around, critters and landscapes would sort themselves out,” she says. “I’m interested in people’s perspectives, their beliefs, values and motivations, and, as a conservation practitioner, the ways we can work with people to advance conservation goals.”

Courtney’s passion for science and the role of humans in conservation is evident in her educational journey and career with the public service in the Government of Alberta. Holding a Master’s degree in environmental education, she started her career as a science and environmental education teacher before pursuing a PhD from the University of Alberta in conservation biology, looking at the importance and influence of the human dimensions in grizzly bear conservation. She has also worked on projects across Canada, Belize, Cameroon, Namibia and currently has two projects in Tanzania –– all focusing on people-wildlife issues.

“Whatever country you work in, the interaction between people and wildlife will have impacts, whether on livelihoods and safety or wildlife survival and sustainability,” she says. “The best way to understand the nature of that, and to develop relevant solutions, is to involve the people who are part of the interactions.”

Map BMAs

Alberta’s seven Grizzly Bear Management Areas (BMAs)

Harnessing local knowledge

Rural Albertans are helping advance scientific knowledge thanks to their detailed working knowledge of the province’s remote landscape, and the grizzlies that roam there.

“In Alberta’s northwest, there are a lot of industry operators who also happen to be landowners, farmers, recreational hunters or anglers, and these people want to see good things happen for the boreal landscape and the wildlife, balanced with economic or personal pursuits,” Courtney says. “We wanted to continue respecting and honoring that local knowledge and the fact that people want to contribute to scientific knowledge.”

With this in mind, the collaborative Northwest Grizzly Bear Team was founded in 2014 with representatives from Alberta Environment and Parks, Mercer Peace River Pulp Ltd., forest and industry stakeholders, the Miistakis Institute, the Alberta Conservation Association and public members, in an effort to help fill boreal grizzly bear knowledge gaps and management needs. GrizzTracker is one of the tools this team developed, to harness local knowledge and create engagement and education opportunities for specific land users and the general public.

GrizzTracker is a smartphone app platform that enables users to submit a grizzly bear sighting, or even tracks, scat or rub objects, using a standardized form with automatic data upload to a secure database. Available for download on Android or iPhones, anyone moving through an area where grizzly bears might be encountered can ‘Start a Trip.’ The app will then collect a location approximately every 90 seconds, which – importantly and innovatively – collects anonymous observer effort data. If a bear is spotted, the user can input the sighting using the form into the app, including a photo, if safe to do so.

Together, this data helps Courtney and the team receive accurate geospatial data about the sighting, which can be mapped to identify grizzly bear distribution across areas of human land use. In turn, this can be used to help inform bear management activities, such as conflict mitigation.

Courtney in Grande Cache

Courtney Hughes, Biodiversity and Landscape Specialist, Alberta Environment and Parks

From pilot to provincial scale

As with any new project, rigorous pilot testing was required to ensure the app worked the way it was supposed to. Throughout 2017, 187 different users contributed to 18 sightings and over 2,281 observer hours. By the end of 2019, 286 users have signed up to the app.

Courtney and the Northwest Grizzly Team will continue to encourage local users in bear country to use the app, but now the team wants to expand beyond the original pilot in the northwest.

“Thanks to the geniuses at the Miistakis Institute, all the major bugs have been addressed, and we’re now ready to expand to a provincial scale,” says Courtney.

The team is also looking into potential partnerships beyond Alberta’s borders, including organizations in British Columbia where there is interest in the app and how it functions in different bear management areas.

“The bears don’t pay attention to provincial borders, but we still need to keep track of the ones who spend time here,” Courtney says. “Thanks to GrizzTracker and the citizen scientists who are using it, we hope to do that better into the future.”

Learn more

  • For more information on the app, visit the GrizzTracker website.
  • The GrizzTracker App is available on Google Play for Android devices and the App Store for iOS devices – search for “Grizztracker”. A training guide is available here (pdf).
  • Check out the mini documentary on the Northwest Grizzly Bear Team, their work on the GrizzTracker app, and more!

Grizzly bear

Grizzly bear in northwest Alberta (photo: Lyle Fullerton, Alberta Environment and Parks, Peace Region

Digging deeper for native trout recovery on the eastern slopes

Assessing human impacts on fish habitat has never been easy, but thanks to a partnership between several organizations, we are digging deeper to learn more about sediment that is piling up on native trout habitat. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry & the Foothills Research Institute have teamed up with the Alberta Environment and Parks Fisheries Management team, Trout Unlimited Canada, Cows and Fish and the University of Calgary to learn how to assess the scope and severity of human-caused sediment deposition into native trout habitat.

With this training in hand, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) and our partner agencies will be locating and assessing sediment deposition areas in native trout recovery watersheds this summer. This information helps us target reclamation activities that will make the biggest impact to recovering native trout populations.

Where does all of this sediment come from?

When off-highway vehicles are driven through the water, plants are removed from the shoreline, or when roads and culverts are improperly built or maintained, fine sediment such as mud and silt enters the river from its usual resting place.

Sediment poses problems for native fish, including bull trout, Westslope cutthroat trout, and Athabasca rainbow trout. Floating sediment travels downstream and impacts water quality. When sediment settles to the bottom of these waterbodies, it can kill fish eggs by coating and cutting off their supply of oxygen and can reduce the quality and quantity of spawning habitat for future generations of fish. Native fish need access to clean, oxygen rich water at every stage of their life.

Unfortunately, sediment isn’t the only thing making life hard for native trout. Alberta’s fish populations are already threatened by loss of habitat, hybridization with other fish and over harvesting.

There are several initiatives taking place across Alberta to lend native trout a helping hand. The new Alberta Watercourse Crossing Inventory Mobile Application (ABWCI) was designed to empower all Albertans to report infrastructure around waterbodies, including crossings and culverts, which could lead to sedimentation. Users can capture the location and condition of crossings and share their findings to support effective watercourse crossing management.

Westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout, and Athabasca rainbow trout are listed as Threatened or Endangered under the provincial Alberta Wildlife Act and federal Species at Risk Act. Addressing major sources of human-caused sedimentation is an essential part of native trout recovery and improves the overall watershed health with cool clean water for all our fish species.

How can you get involved?

Alberta’s Amazing Buffet of Fishing – All you can fish… within the regulations

Alberta anglers have diverse skills and desires when it comes to searching for their next big catch! From expert fly-fishermen, using only hand-tied flies suitable for art galleries, to kids using a Snoopy rod and reel set to catch their first rainbow trout from a stocked pond, this province offers a buffet of options for anglers to enjoy.

Meeting multiple needs can often be quite a tough one to reel in for fisheries biologists, who face several trade-offs between effective regulations, quality of fishing, and number of anglers on each waterbody. Given Alberta’s cold climate and low number of lakes and rivers, these trade-offs are a biological and social necessity that need to be tackled.

Alberta’s fisheries biologists aren’t wading around, they’ve cooked up a wide array of fishing opportunities and options to choose from – just like your favourite smorgasbord!

Your hankering may take you fishing close to home at a river bank, where you don’t mind sitting next to other anglers and don’t expect to catch a bucket full of tasty fish. Or perhaps you want a chance to catch a huge fish-of-the-summer at a lake but, of course, don’t expect to harvest that old-age beauty! Or maybe you just want a simple fish for dinner from a nearby stream but again, don’t expect to catch a whopper. The selection of fisheries in the province will definitely fill your plate and be able to offer you seconds!  Just decide what kind of fishery you want, and pair it with the right lake or river, and always remember that trade-offs… or trading bites will have to happen.

Similar to your favourite restaurant, every region in Alberta has selections of certain styles or types of fisheries – biologists refer to this as “Fisheries Management Objectives”. Check out the infographic below that describes some of the different opportunities Alberta has to offer. Although, it is a tricky choice to select what objective goes with what lake to make the perfect pairing, these decisions aren’t made alone as biologists work to consult as openly and widely as possible. Having a full and diverse menu of opportunities means that Alberta anglers get the best of all worlds, just not all at the same place and the same time!

fishing infographic 1

Alberta has one of the top rated fisheries buffets, an all you can fish style, but within the regulations! If you are looking to plan your next trip, decide what kind of fishery you’re yearning for and check out our new interactive menu. This menu (well… map) is part of a new initiative Alberta Environment and Parks is casting out to encourage Albertans to try out some reel local fishing opportunities and discover Alberta’s fish!

Check out all of the details, including the interactive map highlighting opportunities near you in this 5-star province!

Responsible anglers cut the carp in St. Albert

With many Albertans looking to spend time outside fishing, responsible angling is a
reel-y great practice to ensure we keep fish in our future. Stewardship is especially important for invasive species, like koi and goldfish, which have been caught throughout the province. Once introduced, these species can grow extremely quickly and survive through some of the toughest environmental conditions, including freezing! Their lack of predators allows these invasive species to outcompete Alberta’s fish for resources. Dedicated anglers around the province are casting the line to prevent disaster before it bites, especially in the City of St. Albert, which has had its fair share of fish-tails with invasive carp species.

St.Albert koi-Lacome Lake 1

The first catch of goldfish and koi infestations for the City of St. Albert, started back in 2015 when the City attempted to remove goldfish from the Edgewater storm water management facility. After multiple attempts of drawing down the water levels, electrofishing and even freezing the water, these hardy fish persisted throughout. To make matters worse, additional locations were also discovered, leaving more for the City to tackle. With previous removal attempts being unsuccessful, a chemical substance was the last defense and by 2017, an estimated 45,000 goldfish and koi were removed.

Then notably in 2018, Albertans were in utter koi-os when 11 year-old angler, Luke Hebb, caught a 16 lb. koi fish with hot dogs in Lacombe Lake (located in the City of St. Albert); this was the largest koi ever reported in the province. However, Lacombe Lake was no stranger to invasive species, such as koi and goldfish, as this was one of the previously identified locations found in St. Albert. Nevertheless, this record-breaking koi was a great ambassador for reconfirming that this species is merciless after its introduction and that’s no line.

St.Albert koi-Lacome Lake

Most recently, on May 29, 2020, a local angler noticed an individual heading towards Lacombe Lake with two buckets. The individual intended to release his two koi, but the responsible angler confronted him and told him dumping koi was illegal. He then called the Aquatic Invasive Species hotline (1-855-336-BOAT (2628)) to report the individual, and a Fish and Wildlife Officer was on the hook right away! The Officer followed up with the attempted dumper, who had since returned home. There the Officer learned that the individual had gotten the koi for an aquarium at home, where they grew too large for him. The owner of the koi often walks by the lake and thought it would be nice for other people to see the fish; however, he was unaware that dumping fish (invasive or not) in a waterbody is illegal. The Officer shared the environmental and ecological consequences of releasing fish into the environment. No charges were laid but IF the koi had been dumped, fines could be up to $100,000 – he was off the hook, thanks to a responsible angler!

Thankfully the local anglers in Alberta really give a flying fish and prevented koi from being reintroduced into Lacombe Lake. The City of St. Albert had recently completed their final treatments for goldfish removal in Lacombe Lake in September of 2019 – good thing we have responsible anglers on the line to help!

Always remember:

  • Be koi-ful, and don’t let it loose! Never release live animals, plants or aquarium water into the environment.
  • No need to wade around! Contact us directly through email, ais@gov.ab.ca, by phone, 1-855-336-BOAT (2628) or through EDDMapS Alberta to report aquatic invasive species.
  • Get reel about always Cleaning, Draining and Drying your gear before moving between waterbodies!
  • Caught a new species? Lure-n to identify Alberta’s 52 prohibited aquatic invasive species using our pocket guide.


Gearing up to tackle Family Fishing Weekend

Since 2001, Alberta has had two annual Family Fishing Weekends – an opportunity to grab your friends and family and try your hand at fishing – no licence required! While sportfishing regulations still apply, this is a great chance to get outside and reconnect with Alberta’s amazing lakes, rivers and streams, and the fish that call them home.

Family Fishing Weekend will run from February 15-17 in 2020. You’re off the hook for a licence on Family Fishing Weekend, so we encourage you to sit back, drop a line, and make memories with your friends, families, and maybe even someone new!

Young boy ice fishing.jpg

Photo Credit: Curtis Nichol

The angling community is well known for welcoming newcomers and sharing their sport. If you don’t feel comfortable heading out on the ice alone (or don’t have your own equipment), find an event hosted by the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) or a local fish and game organization so your family can learn directly from the experts! For the avid anglers out there, we hope you’ll share all of your best tips and tricks with new anglers who are eager to try a new sport.

Three men ice fishing - photo credit Vanessa Sherburne.jpeg

Photo Credit: Vanessa Sherburne

If you are ready to head out onto the ice, check out the sportfishing regulations for your fishing spot and ice fishing tips in this video, or visit My Wild Alberta for more important information.

Leading up to the February Family Fishing Weekend, we’ll be sharing some great information to make sure everyone has a fun and safe weekend. We hope you enjoy the weekend responsibly angling, spending time with friends and family, and exploring the great outdoors!

Looking for more ways to participate?

  • Send in a photo to ACA’s Ice Fishing Photo Contest
  • Attend a local event – We’ll be sharing information about events across the province all week on our social media platforms! You can always start with the ACA’s Kids Can Catch Events.
  • Download the AlbertaRELM App and get ready to buy your fishing licence starting on March 14 for the 2020/2021 fishing season, which kicks off April 1! While you’re on AlbertaRELM, why not snap up one of the undersubscribed Special Harvest Licences for walleye, still available at Lac Ste. Anne, Pigeon Lake or Seibert Lake?


Measuring Alberta’s air quality…from space!

By Casandra Brown and Greg Wentworth, Alberta Environment and Parks
January, 2020

Albertans usually experience clean air, but from time to time we all go through bad air quality events caused by things like wildfire smoke or smog. One of the first steps to improving air quality is to understand what pollutants are responsible for poor air quality and where they come from.

Traditionally, air pollutants are measured by monitoring equipment that is stationary and deployed on the ground. However, it’s not feasible to install this equipment everywhere across Alberta, due to factors such as cost, accessibility issues and power requirements. Enter: satellite-based sensors that can measure multiple air pollutants simultaneously across large areas from space.


Image of the satellite that carries the TROPOMI instrument, which measures air pollution from space (image courtesy of the European Space Agency)

Using Satellites to Monitor Air Quality in Alberta

Cristen has led collaborative research using satellites to help address specific air quality issues with other government agencies and universities across Alberta. She holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Toronto and has experience measuring atmospheric pollutants in the Canadian Arctic and Alberta.

Cristen has used satellite data to answer many different questions from large to small scale. For instance, satellite data was used to understand how much air pollution was emitted during the 2016 Horse River wildfire in Fort McMurray (check out this paper to learn more about this work). The team also used satellites as part of an investigation into increased sulphur dioxide concentrations at one monitoring station in Alberta’s oil sands region in recent years.

“Since satellites collect a lot of data over such large areas, they are able to capture events that scientists can’t predict or plan in advance for. For example, the first maps showing the full scale of the Antarctic ozone hole in the 1980s used satellite data,” Cristen explains. “Today, scientists continue to rely on satellite data to find and track air pollution sources, like wildfires and smoke plumes.”

Dr. Cristen Adams

Dr. Cristen Adams, atmospheric scientist, Alberta Environment and Parks

What’s Next?

In the next few years, a new satellite called TEMPO will be launched and held in position over North America. TEMPO will be the first satellite to take measurements of air pollution across North America every hour throughout the day. “Currently, satellites typically take snapshots of air quality about once or twice per day,” says Cristen. “With TEMPO, we will be able to track air pollution throughout the day. This will help us better understand the causes and track the movement of air pollution.” To that end, AEP is continuing to build capacity for using satellites to answer questions that will help us better understand, and ultimately improve, the air Albertans breathe.

“Satellites can help us fill in gaps between traditional on-the-ground stations and estimate amounts of pollutants being emitted. With new satellite instruments, such as TEMPO, coming online, we will be able to do this work with better spatial detail and shorter time periods,” Cristen adds.

Learn More

Chinese mystery snail in Alberta: a very spe-shell case

By Paige Kuczmarski, Alberta Environment and Parks

Although this isn’t our regular snail’s pitch of stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) with “Clean, Drain, Dry” or “Don’t let it Loose”, we still need your undivided attention! We were shell-shocked to find our first location of the invasive Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis) in Alberta this year in McGregor Lake! This species is one of 52 prohibited species listed on the Fisheries (Alberta) Act, meaning we must fight tooth and snail to slow this species from spreading. We need you to come out of your shell and help us with ANY information, such as dates, photos or locations of Chinese mystery snail you may have seen in the past few years. A photo was shared with us showing two people holding up the large snail shells, which gives us reason to believe it has been here since 2016.

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This snail is very noticeable with a large, globular shell that can reach sizes of 6 cm. Distinct sutures and fine growth lines on the brown to olive colored shell also help with identification. Chinese mystery snail can be found buried in soft muddy or sandy substrates in freshwater lakes, streams and rivers. This species of snail can tolerate less than ideal conditions and survive out of water for up to 4 weeks due to the protection provided by an operculum or ‘trap-door’ – this alone warrants concern for further spread through transportation of watercrafts or gear.

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In a nutshell, Chinese mystery snail is named after its mysterious reproductive abilities of giving birth to fully developed juvenile snails, which can happen as many as 169 time per year! This species can impact the growth and abundance of native snail species by competing for habitat and resources, as well as effect water intake pipes and other submerged equipment as their large shells can clog and stop water flow. Furthermore, Chinese mystery snail are considered edible and often sold in Chinese food markets despite it being an intermediate host to multiple parasites that could impact human health. Basically, its ability to rapidly reproduce, tolerate unfavorable conditions and out-compete native species shows that Chinese mystery snails have all the characteristics that make a species highly invasive – any details you may have would help us before this population spirals out of control!

Always remember:

  • To avoid snail mail! Always report aquatic invasive species through EDDMapS Alberta or directly through email, ais@gov.ab.ca or by phone, 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).
  • Don’t be shell-fish! Don’t let it loose – never release live animals, plants or aquarium water into the environment.
  • Take it slow! Always Clean, Drain, Dry your gear before moving between waterbodies.
  • If it’s a mystery to you, learn to identify Alberta’s 52 prohibited aquatic invasive species using our pocket guide.Lake McGregor 2019 NK_0041.JPG