We aren’t talking trout with wings – FISHES is a team dedicated to keeping fish in our future. The Southern Alberta Fisheries Habitat Enhancement and Sustainability (FISHES) Program was established in 2013 to find and address risks to the aquatic environment following the 2013 and 2014 floods.
The FISHES team is made up of fisheries biologists whose mission and passion is to protecting the health of Alberta’s lakes and rivers and the fish that live in them. Their primary efforts have been focused on finding priority areas.
The first step in this work was to survey priority areas using high definition, aerial videography. This information helped identify which areas needed further detailed fish habitat assessment. You can check out videos of the flights online.
Once an area has been identified for rehabilitation, bioengineering techniques are used to help repair them. Bioengineering is the combination of biological, mechanical, and ecological concepts to control erosion and stabilize soil through the use of vegetation and/or construction materials. This restores and enhance fish habitat by stabilizing slopes, establishing vegetation and reducing the amount of sediment entering the water.
The team has been busy! As of November 2015, the FISHES program completed the overview, preliminary and detailed habitat assessments for the initial group of priority projects and they are partnering with the City of Calgary to implement a Bioengineering Demonstration and Education Project on the Bow River.
Much of the work has been focused within the Eastern Slopes of Alberta where westslope cutthroat trout, one of Alberta’s species-at-risk, are known to reside. The team spent last summer working to document fish habitat and identify features that may limit its potential. The result of this work provided insight on how best to use FISHES program funding to define a restoration strategy and develop projects that will make a difference to fish populations and Albertans alike.
Whether in the sky, on the ground or in the water one thing is certain – there really is something fishy about this team!