CBS man wants more answers about dead fish in Manuels River

By Alexandra Brothers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / August 11, 2023 Edition

CBS resident Harold Morgan encountered a disturbing sight while walking the scenic Manuels River trail last week: dead fish in the water.

Morgan reported seeing a total of five or six dead or dying fish during his walk, the majority of which were concentrated around Bubble Pond. This number of dead fish is “really unusual to see in the river,” said Morgan, “nobody I know has ever seen that before.”

The executive director of the Manuel River Centre, Janet Rumsey, confirmed the staff there are aware of the problem. Rumsey said the high water temperatures experienced in the region last month are likely to blame for the unusual occurrence. Water temperatures have reached up to 27 degrees Celsius, according to Rumsey, which is much higher than normal. The high temperatures and lack of rain this summer, said Rumsey, caused parts of the river to be cut off exposing the fish in these areas to sun, high water temperatures, and low dissolved oxygen levels in the river. She noted that recent rainfall has helped to return the water to its normal temperature.

She added that the smaller fish in the river have not been as affected by the changes as they require less oxygen. She allowed the team at Manuels are not experts in the field, but they have been in contact with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), which confirmed that high water temperatures in the river are the probable cause for the elevated number of dead fish.

Morgan, who has lived close to the river for years and is well familiar with its features, has his doubts.

“I heard on the radio that there’s lots of dead fish in rivers and stuff now, and they’re blaming it on the heat, but this being down in Manuels River, there’s a lot of freshwater springs that run into that river, so I don’t think it would ever get that warm,” he said. “I’ve seen temperatures here in Newfoundland up to 34 degrees, but I’ve never seen dead fish in the river before.”

Morgan said he would like DFO to investigate other potential causes for the phenomenon.

Morgan also expressed reluctance to get in contact with the staff at Manuels River about his concerns. “I didn’t contact them, and I won’t contact them,” he said. His reasoning has to do with the staff and the town council’s response to previous concerns he had about the addition of a new drain that runs out into the riverbank.

“When the Mosque was built down here,” Morgan said, “they put a big drain out into the river and we phoned (the Manuels staff) to let them know what was going on there and nobody seemed to care — council, or them.”

According to Morgan, the council claimed that the drainage is no worse than the runoff from the bridge that is directed into the river. “It’s a heritage place and no one can pick up a fossil without getting fined,” said Morgan, “but (the staff) don’t care about the fish in the river.”

Morgan said people seem more concerned about protecting the heritage of the site than they are about protecting the wildlife in the area.

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