$3.5 Million to Help Delta Marsh Keep Pollutants Out of Lake Winnipeg: Mackintosh
The Manitoba government and Ducks Unlimited Canada marked World Wetlands Day by announcing a $3.5-million partnership to help restore Delta Marsh, one of the world’s largest marshes covering 190 square kilometres on the southern shores of Lake Manitoba. The restoration will improve the marsh’s natural function to filter out nitrogen and phosphorus that would otherwise flow into the province’s waterways including Lake Winnipeg. It is the largest project of its kind in North America.
“Manitoba’s Delta Marsh is one of the world’s greatest marshes. It has been recognized as a Wetland of International Importance for decades,” said Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh. “Scientists tell us wetlands like the Delta Marsh are the ‘kidneys of our province’ because of their ability to filter pollutants out of our waterways. This project has benefits for generations of Manitoba families who look forward to full fishnets and clean, healthy beaches.”
The new project will keep the invasive and destructive fish species known as common carp from entering Delta Marsh. Common carp, native to Asia and parts of Europe, are large bottom-dwelling fish that disrupt entire wetland ecosystems by regularly rooting up vegetation and stirring up silt and sediment, which stops sunlight from reaching other aquatic life. The minister noted that research has shown vegetation will recover if the carp are prevented from entering the marsh during the late spring and summer, as they do not overwinter in the marsh.
The project will see fish screens that keep out large destructive carp placed in strategic entry points to the marsh over the winter. The placement of the screens will be timed to allow the movement of native species of fish, such as walleye, that use the marsh to spawn earlier in the spring.
The province’s contribution of $500,000 to the project was used to leverage an additional $3 million from Ducks Unlimited Canada and their partners, including Wildlife Habitat Canada, for a total project contribution of $3.5 million. Ducks Unlimited is supervising the undertaking, which will begin in February and finish in late spring.
“This commitment to Delta Marsh is a fantastic tribute to the future of conservation in Manitoba and Ducks Unlimited Canada is looking forward to the results of this public-private partnership,” said Greg Siekaniec, CEO for Ducks Unlimited Canada. “Scientists have discovered the damage caused to Delta Marsh to be largely reversible, so immediate action is needed to restore Manitoba’s premier marsh back to its continental importance.”
Common carp have destroyed habitat for native fish species and waterfowl in several marshes across North America including Delta Marsh. They were first introduced in Manitoba in the late 1800s and spread throughout the Red and Assiniboine rivers, and lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba.
“Our experiments in small areas within the vast Delta Marsh have shown remarkable recovery within a few weeks of excluding carp, similar to findings at marshes around the Great Lakes,” said Dr. Gordon Goldsborough, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Manitoba. “We are confident that substantial improvement in Delta Marsh can occur this year and look forward to seeing for the first time what can be accomplished at this unprecedented scale.”
Commercial fishers will also benefit from the project. The minister noted the province is partnering with the Manitoba Metis Federation and the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation to harvest the carp as they congregate by the fish screens and to explore ways to add value and find new markets for the harvested carp.
Every Feb. 2 is World Wetlands Day, which marks the date of the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on Feb. 2, 1971. The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that requires signatory countries to plan for the sustainable use of wetlands in their territories. Delta Marsh is one of 37 sites in Canada listed as a Wetland of International Importance site under the Ramsar Convention.
Today’s announcement supports the province’s commitment in TomorrowNow – Manitoba’s Green Plan, to substantially restore Delta Marsh by 2020 including returning the marsh to its normal ecological function of filtering out nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) that would otherwise flow into Lake Manitoba and other waterways including the Lake Winnipeg Basin.
For more information on TomorrowNow – Manitoba’s Green Plan, visit www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/tomorrownowgreenplan/.