in Nova Scotia's History
These few pages on the history of Nova
Scotia's waterways are included only to remind you of what
you already know: water and fish have always been an important
part of many Nova Scotia communities and cultures. Fish was
a staple in the diet of the First nations communitiesand are
still of great importance. In earlier times, fish were in
such abundance that residents used spears for fishing. They
simply walked along the river and quickly speared fish for
their needs. Europeans discovered the rich off-shore fishing
grounds around 1500 and fished for many years before the province
was settled in the 1700's. The early settlers to Nova Scotia
left behind Old World rivers that had already been over-fished.
The New World, although filled with hardship, was a land of
plenty. There are many early records of the abundance of fish
in rivers, lakes, and the ocean.
abundance of fish in our coastal waters has been renowned until
recent years. Fishing grounds off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland
are world famous and have been exploited by many countries including
Canada. These great quantities of fish were once very important
to the economy of Nova Scotia. For the past several years, despite
declines, Canada has been the world's largest exporter of seafood
products, Nova Scotia accounting for almost 26% of the total
Canadian fishery exports.
As well as being important
economically, inland and off-shore ecosystems have tremendous
ecological significance. Many fish, birds, and other animals
depend on healthy environments to survive. Because all natural
ecosystems are interconnected, the general health of our environment,
including human health is affected by any changes we make
to natural systems.
The increasingly efficient modern equipment of today's fishing
population and the growing demands of a rapidly increasing
world population, have caused offshore overfishing in some
the Europeans came to North America, they found the waterways
teeming with fish.
Here are some examples:
In 1800 farmers shovelled salmon out of
the rivers to use for fertilizer.
Inmates in local jails complained of being
fed too much salmon.
Tourists complained that the splashing
of salmon made riverside areas too noisy to sleep.
Early settlers in Nova Scotia say there were so many fish
you could almost walk across the water on the backs of the
Many fish (eels, gasperaux, smelt, salmon,
trout, striped bass, Atlantic whitefish, shad) spend some
of their time in the ocean and some time in sreams and rivers.
The health of rivers and oceans are closely connected. All
rivers eventually flow to the sea so what is done to them
as they move across the land affects the ocean.
Over fishing, by recreational fishermen,
has been a leading cause of population declines of freshater
fish. Brook trout, Smallmouth bass, and Atlantic salmon are
the most popular freshwater game fishes in Nova Scotia. Recreational
fishing started as the province was first settled, but bit-by-bit,
the stocks have become seriously depleted, not only through
over-fishing, but also by poor land use in the watershed.
|Evidence that our waters
are not as healthy as they once were is shown by the serious
decline in fish populations in both rivers and oceans. This
decline is largely the result of over-fishing and the destruction
of critical fish habitat.
The destruction of inland habitat in
the 1800's was mainly due to logging, land clearing for farms,
and damming of rivers. By 1890, the Nova Scotia Department
of Fisheries reported that logging and damming operations
had left only four out of 27 rivers in the Northumberland
Strait open for salmon. The story was the same throughout
the Province. The use of rivers for log and pulp driving caused
much of this destruction. Rivers and streams were often widened,
straightened, and their banks shored up with rocks in order
to ensure that the logs moved efficiently downstream. This
left the streams wider and shallower than the natural fish
habitat In recent years, with the increased frequency of droughts,
this habitat has become increasingly non-productive.
Coastal and off-shore marine habitats
are being degraded by ocean dumping, oil spills, litter and
waste disposal from ships, sewage disposal from coastal communities,
port dredging and causeway building - just to give a few examples.
Land-based sources of pollution account for 80% of the pollution
in our developed harbours and in estuaries with rural watersheds
this can be 100%. Changes in coastal estuaries have also dramatically
affected the health of our oceans.
Adopt-A-Stream program is designed to help you look at some
of the destructive things we do to our waterways and to help
you correct them.
In some cases, you will be trying to correct damage done over
hundreds of years.
In other cases, you will be looking at problems created by
our modern, chemically-dependent society. Throughout the work
of the project you will be attempting to understand history,
in order not to repeat its mistakes.