Québec's tens of thousands of lakes and rivers account for 16 percent of the world's fresh water supply and are a treasure that must be protected. During the summer time, they attract thousands of leisurers such as boaters, fishers and other users. These aquatic activities have an impact on these environments and their inhabitants. Relatively simple precautions can, however, limit that impact.
Reducing speed to protect turtles
Québec has seven species of aquatic turtles. Of these, five are in a precarious situation, namely the map turtle, the wood turtle, the musk turtle, the Blanding’s turtle and the spiny softshell turtle.
Even though it’s quite rare to observe them swimming, these turtles navigate our water bodies for various reasons: migrating to their nesting sites in the spring and in early summer (especially in June), feeding themselves, finding a partner, and so on. All these movements present a risk of collision with a boat. The propellers of a motorboat that cross a turtle’s path may cause significant shell injuries, sometimes fatal. The death of an individual is a great loss for these endangered populations, since most of the time adult turtles contributing to reproduction are involved.
To help Québec’s turtles, here are some simple measures to follow:
- reduce speed in narrower channels;
- stick to waterways and avoid traveling at high speeds near the shoreline;
- enjoy nature in a kayak, on a stand-up paddle board or in a canoe. Being slow and silent will allow you to have greater opportunities of observing reptiles and amphibians basking on a log.
Put a stop to invasive aquatic species
The use of watercraft carries the risk of introducing or spreading non-native species. Several species of shellfish (zebra and quagga mussels), fish (round goby, sea lamprey, tench), arthropods (spiny waterflea, rusty crayfish), plant (spiked water milfoil, common reed, water chestnut), and annelida (earthworm) are already established.
Invasive aquatic species cause important damage to the indigenous fauna and flora. When such a species takes up residence in a water body, extracting it becomes almost impossible. The best line of defense against these invaders is therefore to prevent their introduction and spread with a few simple measures.
For watercraft users, it’s essentially a matter of:
- inspecting boats or material that’s been in contact with the water;
- removing mud, sand and aquatic plant residue, or any visible organism, and disposing of it in a trashcan to avoid its being reintroduced in nature;
- emptying all the water that may be found in the boat, the engine or elsewhere;
- thoroughly cleaning and drying boats, trailers and other material that’s been in contact with the water.
For anglers, it is important to avoid dumping leftover bait (earthworms) in the woods or in waterways, or even better, to use artificial bait. As it happens, the earthworm species most used for fishing, Lumbricus terrestris, is a European species that, like the other introduced earthworm species, causes harm to forested areas and to the species present in these environments.