Timeline

The timeline below shows the changes in fish populations alongside the timeline of the causeway.

1800
A Mighty River
The Petitcodiac River is the 3rd largest river in New Brunswick, and a prolific producer of fish. Atlantic salmon, smelt, striped bass, brook trout, gaspereau and shad were all known to the river.    (4)
1840
Shad Fishery Strong
In the lower Petitcodiac River, Shepody Bay fishermen-farmers land more than 2,000 barrels of shad (approximately 120,000 fish) each year from about 150 small boats, stake nets and weirs. The shad fishing grounds extend from Stoney Creek (about eight miles below the bend of the river) to Grindstone Island at the mouth of the Shepody River. Only in the upper Bay of Fundy do fishermen catch non-spawning shad, the highest quality fish in salt water.     (4)
1950
Inspiration for the Causeway
A group of maritime engineers travel to the Netherlands to see first-hand that country’s extensive use of causeway and dams to control the sea. Causeways were very popular within engineering circles, and many were built throughout the Maritimes in the 50s and 60s.    (4)
1960
Salmon Fishery Strong
In the tributaries of the Petitcodiac River, Federal Fisheries Officer Conrad Bleakney reports the salmon are very plentiful, as many as 500 in some pools. Commercial catches of salmon range from 1,500 to 4,000 kilograms per year. Sports fisherman land from a low of 275 salmon to a high of 1130.    (4)
1960
Feasibility Study of Causeway Conducted
Highway and control engineers concoct a plan to build a causeway at the bend of the Petitcodiac River below the head of tide. A resolution is passed requesting the province to conduct a feasibility study of the causeway across the Petitcodiac River. The Maritime Marshland Rehabilitation Administration, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture was responsible for protecting agricultural lands from tidal flooding. They were chosen to produce the report. If the causeway and dam were designed in such a way that water levels upstream could be controlled, the mandate to protect agricultural lands in Moncton would be met, thus securing important federal dollars.    (6)
1963
Meeting on the Causeway Proposal Goes Favorably
Members of the City of Moncton Town Planning Commission, representatives of the New Brunswick Water Authority, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Works and the Moncton City Engineer meet. The matter of a causeway to provide a highway link across the Petitcodiac River between Moncton and Riverview is on the table. Those gathered are told that tidal silt deposits will cause the stream bank width to decrease downstream of a causeway and a dam structure. Nonetheless, the meeting sticks with the causeway proposal, favoring a crossing at the western end of the city of Moncton. There is no evidence that the possibility of building a bridge to meet Moncton’s transportation needs was ever seriously considered.    (4)
1963
Formal Decision to Build a Causeway Made
In November, a formal decision to build a causeway was made. New Brunswick Wildlife Federation begins lobbying for a fishway to be included in the causeway design.    (6)
1965
Petitcodiac Salmon are Plentiful
Anglers landed more salmon on the Petitcodiac River and its tributaries than on the Restigouche River.    (4)
1966
Dr. Paul Elson's Salmon Study Results
Dr. Paul Elson wraps up a 20-year study of salmon populations in the Petitcodiac watershed. He estimates salmon runs at 8,000 to 10,000 fish. The smallest river in the Petitcodiac Watershed system, the Little or Coverdale River, produced 3,000 fish alone.    (3)
1966
Work Starts on Causeway
In February, work starts on the causeway; approval for a fishway had not been granted yet.
1967
Fishway is Added to Causeway Design
Fishway to allow substantial migrations of fish up river is granted and added to the design on the causeway. The design did not end up working very well, and fish had a hard time swimming up and downstream.
1968
Causeway is Completed
Spring 1968, the causeway is completed providing a new link between Moncton and Riverview. The new causeway has 5 gates which can be opened or closed to control flooding of agricultural lands in the upper reaches of the watershed. It also has a fishway, to allow passage to migratory fish, particularly salmon. The effects of the causeway change the face of the river.
1968
Causeway Gates are Closed
Autumn of 1968, the gates are closed permanently, not opened and closed depending on the tide schedule to control flooding.
1969
Early Impacts of the Causeway
By the spring of 1969, impacts of the causeway are already apparent. The fishway did not allows for fish passage through the causeway as well as it was thought to. Smelt and shad cannot pass through and do not pass through the causeway until the gates are opened. Gaspereau also cannot pass through and Atlantic salmon do so with great difficulty. The recreational dip-net fishery for smelts in Salisbury ended as soon as the causeway was completed, although a similar fishery then developed below the causeway. Nonetheless smelts were considerably less abundant than before the causeway was built.    (6)
1970
Salmon Fishery Rapidly Declining
By 1970, just two years after the causeway was completed, commercial salmon catch drops from 1,000 kilograms in 1969 to 50 kilograms. 60 salmon are caught by anglers this year, compared to at least 275 caught ten years in 1960.    (4)
1971
Striped Bass Angling Ends
Just three years after the causeway, striped bass angling essentially ends. Only 5 striped bass were recorded at the fishway, and in 1972, only 4 were recorded. Eventually in 1983, zero bass were recorded at the fishway.   (4)
1972
Catches of Gaspereau Plummet
Commercial catches of gaspereau plummet. The catch for the year is less than 7 tons, which is less than half of what the average catch was in mid-1960s to 1970s. Notice there is a 4 year delay in gaspereau numbers dropping from when the causeway was finished. This is because it takes about 4 years from the time a gaspereau egg is planted for an adult fish to return to the river to spawn.    (4)
1975
Salmon Continue to Disappear
Only 17 salmon are caught by anglers within the Petitcodiac watershed. A drop from 60 in 1970 and 1130 in 1960.    (4)
1978
Dramatic Siltation Issues Emerge
An extreme siltation problem near the causeway becomes apparent. The river which was once 3,400 feet across is reduced to a mere 250 feet at high tide, and a one meter channel at low tide. This is a reduction of 92%. The river bed is elevated 2 meters by the siltation, drastically reducing the height of the tidal bore.   (6)
1979
Fish Passage Solutions Ignored
A memo is sent to a local Member of the Legislative Assembly by a federal fisheries scientist reporting that his department had told the Transportation Department the preferred solution for the fish passage problem would be to leave on or more gates permanently opened. This recommendation is ignored.    (4)
1980
Salmon Stocking Efforts Begin
The Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans stock 91,000 salmon parr culled from hatchery stock on the Pollett River. But without proper fish passage at the causeway, this initiative becomes futile and expensive.    (4)
1980
Repairs Made to Fishway
$1 million worth of repairs are made on the causeway to repair the fishway.    (4)
1982
Thousands of Salmon are Released into the Watershed
82,000 salmon are put into the Petitcodiac watershed in 1982. Between 207,000 and 437,000 juvenile salmon are released into the Petitcodiac system between 1982 and 1990.    (4)
1988
Causeway Gates Temporarily Opened
Department of Transportation agrees to open the causeway gates for several months to allow stocked salmon smolt to leave the river. From mid-April to early June, all five gates are left opened and the headpond drained. For the next three months two gates are left opened and one gate remains open in October. All gates are closed for the winter. As a result the tidal bore regains some height, and there is more water and fish in the river (except for salmon).    (4)
1989
New Gate Strategy Tried
Between 1989 and 1990, for one month in late spring the gates remain open, to help with fish passage. This only last two years.    (4)
1990
Salmon Run Numbers Are Critically Low
Atlantic salmon runs decline from thousands of adults to less than 100, despite the modifications to the fishway, extensive restocking efforts and recent springtime manipulation of the gates. (6)
1990
Introduction of Invasive Fish Species to the Headpond
Smallmouth Bass, all invasive species, was introduced into the headpond above the causeway as a means for recreational fishers
1991
Report Written on the Effects of the Causeway
In a report written by John Ritter, Chief of Freshwater and Anadromous Division, Biological Science Branch of Fisheries and Oceans, he cites that a. the Petitcodiac has gone from being one of the most important shad producing river to one that produces few shad, because of the causeway and it’s inefficient upstream passage; b. alewife and smelt have greatly declines since the causeway construction; c. upstream and downstream fish passage is inefficient; and d. that problems with fish passage for anadromous species where obstructions are located on tidal areas are not unique to the Petitcodiac River as similar problems exist in most of Fundy’s major tidal rivers including the Shepody, Memramcook, Tantramar and Avon Rivers. His recommendation: allow free flow in the river between April 1st to December 15th of each year. The report was written as part of a package to consider options for the causeway in a response to increase in public lobbying to have the gates opened. (11)
1992
Provincial Cabinet Meets on Causeway - Nothing Changes
Provincial Cabinet meeting in Fredericton with which a report is prepared for them by and inter-department committee outlining the decision-making options on the future of the Petitcodiac causeway. The options included keeping the gates closed, operate the gates more effectively, improve the fishway, permanently opening the gates, replace the causeway with a bridge, and separate the river from the headpond. As well, included is a recommendation from John Ritter to allow the river to flow free from April 1st to December 15th each year. The cabinet decided to allows the gates to remain closed.    (4)
1994
No Salmon Are Caught
No salmon appear at the causeway fish trap this year.
1997
The End of Petitcodiac Salmon?
In 1995, 1500 native Petitcodiac salmon fry (the last native Petitcodiac salmon alive) are released into the headwaters of the Petitcodiac. There they grew into smolt and readied themselves for their doomed trip out to sea. It was clear by this point that the fishway was not working, and salmon were not making it through. The only way to save the Petitcodiac Salmon would be to get the causeway gates opened so they could make their way through. The "Friends of the Petitcodiac" group continued to campaign the government to open the gates. By 1977, "despite public opinion polls in favor of restoring the river, despite a growing chorus of condemnation of government inaction on the problem, despite the overwhelming evidence that this strain of Atlantic salmon were heading for extinction, the provincial government remained steadfast in its refusal to act. In 1997 the last of the Petitcodiac salmon made their way downstream towards the estuary where they were blocked by the causeway save for a awkward six-inch fishway. It was then that we very likely witnessed the end of a subspecies.   (4)
2000
Modifications to Gate Operations Made
More modifications to gate operations attempted to increase fish passage.    (6)
2001
Salmon Listed as Endangered
May 2001, Atlantic salmon are designated as endangered with the Species at Risk Act (SARA).    (12)
2002
Canada’s 2nd Most Endangered River
The Petitcodiac River is designated Canada’s 2nd most endangered river in the first edition of the list made by Earthwild International and Wildcanada.net.    (1)
2003
Canada’s MOST Endangered River.
Petitcodiac River designated as Canada’s most endangered river in the second edition of the list made by Earthwild International and Wildcanada.net.   (2)
2006
S.A.R.A. Releases Statement on Atlantic Salmon
In a response statement on the status of endangered for the Atlantic salmon, SARA writes “These salmon represent a unique Canadian endemic; their entire biological distribution exists within Canada. Adult numbers are estimated to have declined by more than 95% in 30 years, and most rivers no longer have either adults or juveniles. In 2003, fewer than 100 adults are estimated to have returned to the 32 rivers known to have historically contained the species. There is no likelihood of rescue”.    (10)
2010
Monitoring of Fish Populations by the PFRC
The Petitcodiac Fish Recovery Coalition (PFRC) was created, and began monitoring fish populations on the Petitcodiac River at a trap in Salisbury, NB.    (7)
2010
Causeway Gates Permanently Opened
April 2010, the causeway gates are opened permanently to a chorus of cheers and boos from the roughly 500 people who gathered on the river's banks to watch the historic event.   (5)
2011
Restocking Efforts in the Pollett Continue
Spring 2011, estimated 500,000 salmon fry released into the Pollett River by Fort Folly Habitat Recovery.    (9)
2014
Shad Have Small Return
Two shad recorded near Salisbury, but there is no evidence they are spawning up river.    (4)
2015
Invasive Species Numbers Decline
Chain Pickerel and Smallmouth Bass both recorded near Salisbury. These species were introduced into the head pond while the gates were closed as a recreational fish. Since the gates have been opened they have been recorded in smaller numbers, but there are rumors of illegal releases still of these species. Both of these species are considered predators of Salmon and can be a hindrance to restoring native spawning species.
2016
Smelt Start Returning
April 2016, largest smelt run recorded since the causeway was completed.
2016
Restocking Efforts in the Petitcodiac Watershed Continue
Spring. Estimated 50,000 Salmon Fry released into the Petitcodiac Watershed by Fort Folly Habitat Recovery.    (9)
2016
Positive Impacts on Fish Since Gates Were Opened
Since the opening of the causeway, the numbers of Striped Bass and American Eels moving up river has been generally increasing. Striped Bass were not able to successfully make it through the causeway before the gates were open but recently over 1,000 have been recorded in one year. Atlantic Tomcod were mostly absent from the upper estuary while the gates were closed, but their numbers have increased since they were opened. Gaspereau move up the river to spawn in large numbers in the late spring with many thousands being recorded each year.
2016
Positive Changes on the River Since the Gates Opened
Since the opening of the causeway gates, the river has seen many positive changes. Namely the river banks are widening at a noticeable pace, and the tidal bore is also growing. Vegetation such as samphire greens and goose tongue, which were extirpated since the causeway was constructed are now returning to the marshes. (8)

 


1 “Canada’s Most Endangered Rivers.” Ottertooth. N.p., 2014. Web. Aug. 2016.

2 “Canada’s Most Endangered Rivers Ranked.” Technology and Science. CBC News, 7 July 2003. Web. 25 Aug. 2016.

3 Elson, Paul, M. W. Smith, J. W. Saunders, and R. L. Saunders. “Reports of Anadromous Fish Investigations.” Fisheries Research Board of Canada (1965): n. pag. Web. Aug. 2016.

4 Harvey, Janice, and Julie Oliver. “Death Watch on the Petitcodiac.” Atlantic Salmon Journal 46.2 (1997): 36-43. Print.

5 “History: Causeway Controversy (Since 1962).” Petitcodiac Causeway. Sentinelles Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.

6 Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada Gulf Fisheries Centre Oceans and Environment Branch Maritimes Region. Annotated Bibliography of Aquatic Biology and Habitat of the Petitcodiac River System, New Brunswick. Part 2. By A. Locke. N.p.: Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2001. Print.

7 “Petitcodiac Fish Recovery Coalition.” Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance, n.d. Web. Aug. 2016.

8 “Petitcodiac River Changing Faster than Expected.” CBC News. N.p., 7 June 2010. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.

9 “Petitcodiac Watershed Fry Releases.” Fort Folly Habitat Recovery, 2016. Web. Sept. 2016.

10 “Response Statement – Atlantic Salmon, Inner Bay of Fundy Population.” Species at Risk Public Registry. Government of Canada, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.

11 Ritter, J. A. “Effects of Moncton-Riverview Causeway on Anadromous Fish Stocks of the Petitcodiac River.” Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Scotia-Fundy Region (1991): 2-9. Print.

12 “Species Profile (Atlantic Salmon).” Species at Risk Public Registry. Government of Canada, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.

13 Van Proosdij, Danika, Tim Milligan, Gary Bugden, and Karl Butler. “A Tale of Two Estuaries: Comparison of Anthropogenic Impacts on the Contemporary Evolution of the Avon and Petitcodiac River Systems, Bay of Fundy.” Atlantic Geography 44 (2008): 47. Print.

 


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