How do surface water quality management frameworks protect our water?

Over the past 20 years, Alberta has experienced tremendous growth. Statistics show that not only has our population increased  from around 3.1 million in 2002 to more than 4.4 million in 2021,  Alberta’s economy has also grown significantly. But positive opportunities also come with challenges, specifically, an increased pressure and need to access a valuable and limited resource—water.

So, how do we make sure clean, high quality water is available to promote healthy communities and a strong economy?  That’s where surface water quality management frameworks come into place.

These frameworks establish clear regional objectives for water quality. These objectives have to strike the right balance and are reached in collaboration with stakeholders, Indigenous communities, municipalities and the public. Frameworks are developed for our rivers to ensure these resources can support water needs for the community, aquatic habitat and industrial use in the region into the future.

In Alberta, there are two comprehensive regional surface water quality management frameworks. One is for the South Saskatchewan region and the other is for the lower Athabasca region. Each framework describes a long-term vision, or regional objective, and collects water quality information based on the needs and resources in the area. The frameworks inform government decisions to respond to changes in water quality as a result of human activities in the watershed.

In southern Alberta, the South Saskatchewan region surface water quality management framework includes the Bow, South Saskatchewan, Oldman and Milk rivers. This area, known for its hot, dry climate, experiences a wide range of land uses and every drop of water is in high demand. In northeastern Alberta, an area with a heavy concentration of industrial activity, the framework helps effectively manage water quality.

Bow Watershed, South Saskatchewan Region

Regular water monitoring, evaluation and reporting on ambient surface water quality conditions ensure the objectives of the framework are being met. Ongoing monitoring of key water quality indicators such as nutrients, metals, sediment, bacteria and major ions ensure stressors affecting water quality are closely monitored.

If one or more of the 20+ water quality indicators are triggered, Alberta Environment and Parks will get the early warning signal to act. Based on stringent water quality guidelines, the frameworks also include more specific water quality limits to make sure water is suitable for aquatic life, recreation, irrigation, livestock watering and source water for household use.

If an exceedance of a trigger or limit is found, actions are taken. Depending on the cause and effect, responses can vary in severity. It may mean a non-regulatory approach is developed, such as education and awareness initiatives, or the use of strong regulatory tools. Depending on the situation, these responses are acted upon in collaboration with industry, communities and stakeholders. Tools include changes to regulations or mandatory new approval conditions under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. Whichever the response, the goal is always to protect the environment and support continuous improvement.

Surface water quality management frameworks have proven to be very valuable tools for monitoring and managing long-term, cumulative changes in water quality since being put in place in the lower Athabasca region in 2012 and the South Saskatchewan region in 2014.

Athabasca River, Lower Athabasca Region

Albertans place a high value on our province’s water resources and want to ensure our water quality is protected. With water resources in other areas of the province under similar pressure, the use of surface water quality management frameworks is a proven way to help manage water quality across a region.

Alberta will continue to grow, and surface water management frameworks will help us keep pace and address the water needs for communities and industry opportunities.

The Challenging Visitation Increase to Kananaskis in 2020

Did you know that last year Kananaskis experienced the highest visitation rate in history?

In 2020, visitation to Kananaskis was the highest ever recorded in history for the area, with more than five million visitors—higher than annual average visitation rate in Banff National Park, which is typically just over 4 million.

Consistently increasing over the years, visitation numbers skyrocketed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kananaskis is a large draw for visitors from the area’s large urban centres, such as Calgary.

The make-up of visitors last year was also more varied than before, with a “new to the outdoors” group heading out. Many of these users were discovering outdoor recreation activities, like hiking, for the first time.  

“Social media played a large role in drawing additional visitors to the area, with many blogs and social media postings inspiring visitation to Kananaskis for its renowned activities, trails and experiences,” said Debbie Mucha, Kananaskis West Area Manager, Alberta Environment and Parks.

The extremely high and consistent volume of visitors, and in some cases their inexperience with the outdoors, presented several new challenges and compounded existing ones, including:

Garbage, waste, and litter

Visitors left the highest amounts of garbage, litter and waste ever observed in Kananaskis. Litter was not properly disposed, and it was often tossed in front or around bins, or simply left on trails, day use areas and around other facilities. Bins could not be serviced quickly enough to keep up with the high volume of garbage. Dog poop/waste bags (filled) littered the trails in high densities as did paper coffee cups, masks, wipes, tampons and numerous other items.

“The amount of garbage and disregard for parks facilities were a large issue. Despite our best efforts, visitors seemed to be unaware of leave no trace principles related to going to the washroom in the woods or in some cases in outhouse facilities. Toilet paper was everywhere, including at day use areas and off/on trails. When garbage isn’t disposed of properly, it can attract and endanger wildlife,” added Debbie.

Large amounts of garbage left on trails, day use areas and around other facilities.

Wildlife concerns

High numbers of visitors meant more impacts to sensitive environments, landscapes and wildlife. Conservation Officers, bear management technicians and volunteers spent a lot more time collecting garbage so wildlife would not be attracted to areas where people were recreating.

Many visitors were not familiar with wildlife etiquette and best practices, including bear safety recommendations—like effectively carrying bear spray, knowing how to use and store it—not feeding wildlife, properly disposing of garbage and keeping dogs on leash. Dogs off leash can stress wildlife, so keeping your dog on leash and under control can help keep your dog, you and wildlife safe.

 “We encourage visitors to actively discover, explore and experience nature; but at the same time to be safe and respectful around wildlife. Remember to be cautious whenever there’s wildlife present and give them space, never leave food or attractants out, properly dispose of garbage; respect area, site and trail closures, and stay on sanctioned trails where possible. We all have a role in keeping wildlife wild,” said Debbie.

 Stay in sanctioned trails and respect area, site and trail closures and restrictions

Too many visitors concentrated in one area or location and going off trails can have a detrimental impact on sensitive habitats. We encourage visitors to always stay on designated trails and respect area, site and trail closures and restrictions. Developing new “unofficial” routes and trails is not allowed, as this can cause damage to the environment and present hazards to other visitors. People should always be prepared to adjust travel plans if necessary. If a trail or site is full, we encourage visitors to have alternate plans, such as visiting another area, going earlier or later in the day, or during days or seasons that are less busy.

 “We had very high visitation to Highwood Pass, leading to significant damages to alpine and sub-alpine environment, and severe impacts to delicate flora and fauna which were being crushed or decimated in sensitive areas. We encourage everyone to always stay on sanctioned trails. These have been designed to take you to beautiful locations while at the same time keeping you safe from hazards, and protecting the environment and other visitors alike,” expressed Debbie.

Enforcement Resources

There was an increase in calls for enforcement last year, with a steep increase in calls regarding illegal camping and people with dogs off-leash. In addition, the area experienced an increase in “city like” crime, such as vehicle break-ins and vandalism, like graffiti.

The other side of this problem was that Conservation Officers had a difficult time in responding to the increased enforcement issues because much of their time was spent on public safety incidents, wildlife response, parking issues, and cleaning up garbage.

Some of the graffiti found at Ha-Ling. 

Traffic congestion, illegal parking and excessive speed

Congested parking lots and vehicles parking on the highway shoulder, roadway and ditch parking were also an issue, particularly because they limited the access of emergency vehicles to sites as well as reduced pedestrian safety.

This also degraded roadside vegetation due to vehicles parking off-road sometimes two vehicles deep. Excessive speeds from some drivers and the sheer numbers of vehicles also increased the risk for the public and wildlife.

“Probably due to the underlying stress of the pandemic, visitors were behaving in a more aggressive way with staff and contractors. We had contractors being called certain names and the public arguing if they said a parking lot was full. We received reports of negative behaviours and attitudes from the public towards campground operators and staff,” added Debbie.

Improper parking and traffic issues.

Operational Expenses

Operational expenses in the Kananaskis increased exponentially and exceeded budget allotment for summer 2020. Some of these expenses included additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and associated Occupational Health and Safety requirements, high volume of washroom use, maintenance and clean-up, firewood supply, increased helicopter budget for rescues, among others.

“We saw a high increase in costs of emptying and cleaning toilets, garbage collection, providing supplies including the cost of hand sanitizer and PPE to keep both the public and staff safe. When day use areas and washrooms were closed, visitors defecated beside washrooms and even in front of visitor information centres. A considerable amount of funds had to be spent on a contractor to clean this mess up,” expressed Debbie.

You are now in Mother Nature’s home, so be a good guest!

If you were a guest in someone’s home, would you behave in a disruptive manner? Likely not. Remember that when you head into the outdoors you become a guest in Mother Nature’s home.

Albertans are encouraged to do their part and reduce the pressure on the landscape, wildlife, and the staff that helps keep Kananaskis beautiful, healthy and safe.

Visitors who may lack experience are encouraged to learn more about best practices and proper outdoor etiquettes, by taking a course, learning from others, hiring an expert guide, or doing some reading and research prior to heading out.

“When you visit a park, come prepared and do your research in advance. For example, arrive early and have alternative options in mind if parking lots and trails are full, and think of other times seasons that may not be that busy in the area you plan to visit,” said Debbie.  

Visitors should also avoid playing loud music, dispose garbage and doggy bags properly, not do graffiti, and not park on highway shoulders. These actions will increase your chances for a safe and happy visit that does not have any negative impacts on the landscapes, wildlife and other people.

“We’re currently looking at the impact that high visitation has put on wildlife and sensitive landscapes, and at ways to minimize these impacts. After all, don’t we all want to see places like Kananaskis exist and flourish in the long term and far into the future so they can be enjoyed?,” concluded Debbie.

AEP’s Wetlands Replacement Program restores nearly 160 hectares of wetland in Alberta

Wetlands in Alberta

Several municipalities across Alberta are the stewards of new or restored wetland ecosystems within their communities. Funded through Alberta Environment and Parks’ (AEP) Wetland Replacement Program (WRP), the program provides financial support for wetland restoration and construction initiatives that reverse the trend of wetland loss and ultimately enhance and enrich communities throughout Alberta. To date, the program has funded seven projects across the province equating to $3.7 million, and resulted in the restoration and or construction of 158.23 ha of wetland – truly a significant accomplishment.

Wetlands sustain life in many ways and are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They are rich with an abundance of diverse plants and animals, are a source of substantial biodiversity and provide a host of important benefits to society such as for fish and wildlife habitats, natural water quality improvement, flood storage, shoreline erosion protection and a myriad of opportunities for tourism, boating, bird watching, nature photography, hunting, fishing and other activities.

They are a vital part of Alberta’s ecological landscape and necessary for a sustainable economy and healthy communities. Protecting wetlands can, in turn, protect our health and safety by reducing flood damage and preserving water quality.

Since the establishment of the province more than 100 years ago, land development, urbanization and settlement has resulted in a significant reduction of wetlands. These natural areas continue to be under direct and indirect pressures from a variety of sources including dredging, draining, and/or filling wetland areas for conversion to agricultural, industrial or residential lands. Thus, careful management and restoration of wetland ecosystems are important tools in reversing those impacts and the resultant loss of ecosystem goods and services.

In Alberta, the province’s wetland policy plays an important part in both recognizing the value of wetlands and retaining them on our landscapes.

In 2019, AEP began the design and development of its Wetland Replacement Program – a program that aims to re-establish wetlands in partnership with Albertans by providing resources for collaborative replacement projects across the province.

Since January 2020, AEP began extensive engagements with municipalities throughout Alberta, alongside Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and to date, through a series of virtual meetings and presentations, they have engaged with over 15 municipalities and DUC on the program.

They have also signed memorandums of understanding to work together with nine municipalities to establish wetland replacement projects – municipalities including the City of Leduc, City of Red Deer, County of Grande Prairie, County of Leduc, Lac La Biche County, Municipal District of Greenview, Parkland County, Strathcona County and Sturgeon County as well as with DUC.

This is how it works. AEP works with participants of the program – any non-profit organization or municipality, to identify potential wetland replacement projects. Once the projects have been assessed and approved, replacement projects are funded by the WRP which can include financial compensation for private landowners hosting wetland replacement projects on their private lands.

Another positive outcome of the program is the impact it has on a range of employment opportunities for Albertans. Private consultants – in the areas of environmental, construction operators, equipment rentals, and vegetation nurseries – can participate in the program through contracts with the municipality, resulting in job creation and community growth.

Having the program operate through AEP provides financial oversight and accountability of the revenues and expenditures of the money collected through the program.

In addition, the WRP also supports Alberta’s Wetland Policy (AWP) priority policy outcomes in the following ways: a) Wetlands and their benefits to the environment and society are conserved and restored in areas where losses have been high. b) Wetlands are managed by avoiding and minimizing negative impacts, and where necessary, by replacing lost wetland value.

Matthew Wilson, wetlands team lead with AEP, attributes much of the success of the program to collaboration, particularly through the high level of participation from DUC and their ability to restore hundreds of hectares of wetlands annually, as well as through the commitment by municipal stakeholders to deliver wetland replacement projects.

“It has been a great experience developing new relationships with municipalities and working with DUC, who has so much experience in wetland restoration. Working together fulfills a policy commitment by AEP that municipalities play a key role in planning and prioritizing wetland restoration and conservation within their jurisdiction. The program delivers on AEP’s Wetland Policy outcomes to restore and replace wetlands in areas of high historical loss and in areas where recent wetland losses could not be avoided,” he says.

The WRP is currently focused on funding projects in wetland restoration and wetland construction.

Wetland restoration can be defined as the manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a site with the goal of returning natural / historic functions to a former or degraded wetland. Examples of wetland restoration include, but are not limited to, installing a ditch plug in a drained wetland, or a partially drained wetland or the removal of tile drainage.

Wetland construction is the manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a site with the goal of creating a wetland on a site location that was historically non-wetland. This results in a gain of wetland area and function. AEP is also considering the expanding existing wetlands, by broadening the scope of the wetland area into upland areas or deep water sites.

Red Tape Reduction

Other progression in wetland policy includes a new Code of Practice (COP) for Wetland Replacement Works (WRW) that has been approved for Wetland Replacement Projects that meet the requirements of the code.

The new COP will be for low risk restoration and construction activities. For projects that do not qualify for the new COP, proponents will still have to obtain an approval. What this means is that people will be able to get started on the project more quickly, reduce burden on approvals staff and enable AEP to spend the WRP money to get people back to work.

Wetland Replacement Projects

Location: County of Grande Prairie

Number of wetland hectares restored: 0.5 ha

Participants: In association with private landowners

Location: County of Grande Prairie

Number of wetland hectare restoration and construction: 2.0

Participants: In association with private landowners

Wetland benefit: Both projects in Grand Prairie will contribute to better water quality in Saskatoon Lake.

Location: Municipal District of Greenview

Number of wetland hectares of construction: 0.5.

Wetland benefit: This project will address water quality issues in Victor Lake, which is the primary source of drinking water for Grande Cache.

Location: City of Leduc

Number of wetland hectares of construction: 0.38

Wetland benefit: This project will contribute to improved water quality in the adjacent Telford Lake and provide additional habitat for wildlife and an educational opportunity for residents as it is adjacent to the city’s existing nature trail that extends around Telford Lake.

The City of Leduc successfully restored 0.38 hectares of wetland at the Telford Lake site. All of the earthwork was completed in November 2020 that included installation of snags and coarse wood debris as habitat features and to create structure. Seeding occurred immediately and the planting of aquatic species will be completed in Spring 2021.

 “We are pleased to have worked with the Province on the wetlands restoration project at Telford Lake,” says City of Leduc Councillor Lars Hansen. “Once complete, it will bring many ecological benefits to the area and provide unique opportunities for community education and engagement among local residents.”

Ducks Unlimited Canada Projects

Willow Creek

Number of wetland hectares restored: 13.74

Location: Municipal District of Willow Creek, in partnership with private landowners

Wetland benefit: This project will contribute to increased flood storage protection within the watershed and provide wildlife and waterfowl habitat.  

Silver Sage

Number of wetland hectares restored: 29.39

Location: County of Forty Mile, in partnership with the Alberta Conservation Association (their land).

Wetland benefit: This project will contribute to increased flood storage protection within the watershed and provide wildlife and waterfowl habitat.

Lochend Lake

Number of wetland hectares restored: 111.72

Location: Rocky View County, in partnership with private landowners

Wetland benefit: This project will contribute to increased flood storage protection within the watershed and provide wildlife and waterfowl habitat. The project is located within the headwaters of the Big Hills Springs Creek, which then flows into the Bow River System upstream of Calgary.

In 2021, the Wetlands Replacement Program will continue to engage with municipalities and other non-profits to participate in the program and get more projects on the ground!

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,, 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?


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.

CMS_Paige Kuczmarski4.jpg

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.

CMS_Paige Kuczmarski1.jpg

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, 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

Playing by the rules; responsible pet ownership is a game changer

Responsible pet ownership is the name of the game when purchasing a new pet (or even a plant), and invasive species are the bad guys. Habitat, food and lifestyle are essential to know, but now you need to make sure your new pet isn’t trying to cheat the game by disguising themselves as an invasive species. Thankfully, the aquatic invasive species (AIS) team are no newbies when it comes to playing this game!

Just last December, a Fort McMurray woman purchased a pair of incorrectly identified turtles advertised on social media in Gibbons. After she brought home what she thought were four-month-old Sawback turtles, it was discovered that they were actually map turtles (Genus Graptemys), an invasive species in Alberta. This species is listed in the Wildlife Regulation as well as the Communicable Diseases Regulation (Alberta Health Ministry) as they can carry salmonella bacteria which can result in fever or diarrhea, sometimes even death to humans. It is illegal to buy, sell or own map turtles in Alberta.

Map Turtle

Its not just misidentification of species that can cause issues for single players in this game, sometimes stores receive the wrong species to sell! This summer, the AIS team discovered two prohibited species under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act – Fanwort and Oriental Weather Loach – being sold at a large pet store chain. The Oriental Weather Loach was for sale under its alternate name Dojo Loach, and the Fanwort was listed as a Green Cabomba plant. If you’ve purchased either of these two species, call the AIS Hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).

Whether you’re on the winning streak of pet ownership or just learning the rules, it’s important to be the game changer in this world full of players!

Hot gaming tips:

  1. Don’t be a noob! Before buying an aquatic pet, plant or invertebrate, doing a quick google search for the scientific name of the species can help you understand if the species is prohibited. A great place to start is Alberta’s prohibited species list.
  2. When it’s game over, take appropriate measures to protect the environment.
    • If you don’t want your pet anymore… Don’t let it loose! Many aquarium plants, fish and pets we purchase are not native to our ecosystem and if released, can cause harm to the environment. Donate your unwanted pet to a friend or return it to the pet store.
    • When the sad day comes that your pet dies, instead of flushing it down the toilet, consider burying it or throwing it in the garbage. Fish can carry foreign diseases and parasites that could spread through our water systems and affect native species.
  3. Level up and become a game master! Report aquatic invasive species to the aquatic invasive species hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628). Find out more about aquatic invasive species.

Fill out Fisheries and Oceans Canada survey on aquariums to help them gain a better understanding of the use and movement of aquatic plants and animals associated with the aquarium trade in Canada.

Hide and go zoo?!

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) can run, but they most certainly can’t hide – especially with all the help we receive from our partners and concerned citizens who are always reporting suspicious species! This spring, one AIS was found and luckily, quickly lost this round of hide-and-go-seek.

You may be wondering, zoo is the culprit here? Yellow floating heart, that’s who! On
May 23rd, 2019, the Integrated Pest Management team from the City of Edmonton contacted the AIS team to report a weed issue in a moat adjacent to the lemur enclosure at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. The AIS Specialist confirmed on May 27th that the plant was the Yellow Floating Heart 2prohibited species, Nymphoides peltata or yellow floating heart. This perennial species is native to Asia and Europe, and is a serious ecological threat to fish and their habitat by creating dense mats on the water’s surface, which crowd out native plants and reduce oxygen levels.


Y Floatign Heart 2019 Edm Zoo_0050

Yellow Floating Heart roots in the soil and sends up leaves to float on the water surface. Flowers are bright yellow and have 5 petals. (Photo credit: Nicole Kimmel)

Fortunately, the moat system in the zoo is isolated and yellow floating heart has only been found in this one location. Unfortunately, the moat has been drained into a nearby storm drain that is connected to the North Saskatchewan River. This was concerning as yellow floating heart spreads in many ways: seed, rhizomes (below ground runners), stolons (above ground runners) and basically, through any fragments of the plant. The river is now under surveillance. Since this species is particularly challenging to eradicate, this weed issue quickly turned into an emergency response. On June 12th, the AIS team joined Edmonton Valley Zoo staff in hand removal of this plant. Water was hydro-vacuumed out of the moat and disposed of at hazardous injection well sites to ensure any possible fragments were not spread.


Yellow floating heart - Photo Credit Tanya Rushcall

AIS and Edmonton Valley Zoo staff hand removing all plants and fragments of yellow floating heart from the moat (Photo credits – Tanya Rushcall & Nicole Kimmel).

AIS and Edmonton Valley Zoo staff have been monitoring the site and will continue to dYellow Floating Hearto so for two additional years to guarantee yellow floating heart is no longer hiding in the shallows of the lemur moat! Although, an ASERT response was initiated, it’s thanks to reports like these that help us catch those AIS that hide and fuel us to seek immediate reactions. No more, “you’re it” but instead “you’re zoo out of here!”


How can you help?

  1. Don’t let it loose! Never release unwanted aquarium species – it’s illegal, unfair to native species and harmful to the environment.
  2. Report what you see! Call the AIS hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628) or use the EDDMapS Alberta.
  3. Learn to identify Alberta’s 52 prohibited aquatic invasive species using our pocket guide.
  4. Fill out Fisheries and Oceans Canada survey on water gardens to help them gain a better understanding of the use and movement of aquatic plants.