St. Lawrence River: videos on the St. Lawrence

Discover, through four videos about our activities, how scientists at Environment Canada help to better understand and protect the rich and diverse ecosystem of the St. Lawrence.

Monitoring the St. Lawrence

One of the roles of Environment Canada is to study the St. Lawrence from various angles in order to inform the public and decision-makers on the state of health of that gigantic ecosystem. Water quality, sediment contamination and the evolution of bird populations are just a few examples of indicators used for this purpose. Whether in the field, in a laboratory, or in their offices, Environment Canada scientists gather and analyze a wide range of information to better understand the past, present and future of the St. Lawrence.

Monitoring the St. Lawrence

Links

Learn more by watching the video Monitoring the St. Lawrence.

Transcript

Monitoring the St. Lawrence

Environment Canada Logo

“Monitoring the St. Lawrence” appears on the screen with a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence in the background

Narrator -- The St. Lawrence is an ecosystem made up of a wide variety of habitats that are home to an equally large variety of vegetation and wildlife.

A sailboat is sailing down the St. Lawrence

Birds flying

A man and woman are walking along the shores

View of Montréal by the water

A man is steering a boat

Women and men on rocky shores

Narrator -- Most of Quebec’s population lives in the St. Lawrence valley and is concerned about its state of health.

A man is talking with wetlands in the background

Paul Messier, Director General, Société d'aménagement de la baie Lavallière: “We have concerns about sedimentation, about fish reproduction.”

A women with the shore in the background

Sarah-Emily Hébert-Marcoux, Acting Director, Côte-Nord du Golfe Zones d’intervention prioritaire(ZIP) Committee: “…the water quality, the state of fish populations, and of sea mammals.”

Sea mammals swimming in the St. Lawrence

A dam

A ship

Narrator -- Environment Canada monitors the St. Lawrence in various ways.

A woman sitting in an office

Hélène Bouchard, Manager, Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Surveillance - Atlantic Watershed, Environment Canada: “Environment Canada is one of the partners that help collect data and information to determine the state of health of different aspects of the St. Lawrence. Our work is a bit like a doctor’s: we analyze certain aspects of the St. Lawrence in order to regularly take stock of its health and share this information with the population and decision-makers.”

A woman working in a lab

A fish in a Petri dish

An employee examining the fish

Details on a computer monitor

People working in a lab

Boat in the water

Narrator -- Environment Canada takes water samples at different locations to find out the contamination rates for toxic substances and nutrients.

Man takes water samples over side of boat

Person examining water sample in lab

People walking on sandy beach

Narrator -- The water quality analysis is particularly important in areas where molluscs are harvested.

A man talking with the shore in the background

Jacques Sénéchal, Head, Marine Water Quality Monitoring - Quebec Region, Environment Canada: “By identifying the sources of contamination in the environment and assessing the bacteriological quality of the water, Environment Canada ensures that those molluscs are safe for consumption, in order to protect public health.”

Water samples handled

Man and woman on beach examining molluscs

Closed areas for shellfish harvesting warning sign

Men on boat examining sediment

Man writing data in book

Narrator -- The sediments also provide information on the quality of the environment.

A man talking with an Environment Canada boat in the background

Magella Pelletier, Sedimentologist, Fresh Water Quality Monitoring - Atlantic Watershed, Environment Canada: “We carry out these analyses mainly to determine what contaminants are found in the sediment. So we test two types of sediment: riverbed sediments, for recent information, and we take sediments cores to see the record or the history of contamination in the St. Lawrence River.”

Men on boat collecting sediment

Woman examining samples in a lab

Narrator -- Moreover, Environment Canada studies the effect of contaminants on diversity and on the number of aquatic organisms living on the riverbed or beneath the sediment surface.

Man examining samples in a lab

Birds flying along the shoreline

Birds on rocks

Heron flying

Flowing water

Narrator -- Some bird species also provide information on the state of the St. Lawrence. Environment Canada monitors Northern Gannet populations, their reproduction, and the contaminants they contain, as well as monitoring contaminants in the Great Blue Herons to learn about the condition of the environment.

Birds on the shore

Running water over rocks

Narrator -- In addition to these analyses and monitoring, Environment Canada regularly measures the water flow and level, in part to determine how they affect the habitats of St. Lawrence fauna and flora. A woman sitting in an office

Hélène Bouchard, Manager, Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Surveillance - Atlantic Watershed, Environment Canada: “Tracking the state of the St. Lawrence is critical, because the river offers us so many opportunities. It’s an international seaway, it’s a highly diverse living environment for wildlife and plants, it’s a source of tourism and recreational activities, it inspires our artists. And when you look at it from that perspective, it’s absolutely crucial to take care of it and know how its condition changes over time so that we can preserve it properly.”

Shoreline view through reeds

Researching the St. Lawrence

Researchers at Environment Canada try to better understand the problems, known or emerging, that face the St. Lawrence. For example, Environment Canada examines the effects of pharmaceutical substances contained in urban waste water on aquatic organisms.

Researching the St. Lawrence

Links

Learn more by watching the video Researching the St. Lawrence.

Transcript

Researching the St. Lawrence

Environment Canada logo

“Researching the St. Lawrence” text appears on screen with a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence in the background

Panoramic view of the St. Lawrence from above

Narrator -- The St. Lawrence is an environment that pulsates with life. Most of Quebec’s population lives in its valley and is concerned about the river’s integrity.

Woman standing on sandy shore of the St. Lawrence talking

Françoise Bruault, Director, Sud de l’estuaire ZIP Committee: “With regard to the St. Lawrence as a whole, what worries me the most is always the question of pollution, of the water being contaminated by new chemical substances, such as pharmaceutical products.”

A man talks with water in background

Pierre Latraverse, Chair of the Board of the Lac Saint-Pierre ZIP Committee: “…one of the biggest worries right now for people living in the Lake Saint-Pierre region is the presence of invasive wildlife and plant species.”

Environment Canada boat navigating

Narrator -- Environment Canada is conducting several research projects on the St. Lawrence. The purpose is to learn more about the environmental pressures that are affecting its ecological integrity.

Monitoring equipment on boat

Industrial plant in background

Environment Canada employees working on boat

Fish in tank

Woman in lab

Environment Canada scuba diver going into water off boat

Man with bridge and Montréal in background

Yves de Lafontaine, Head, Aquatic Biodiversity Section, Environment Canada: “Our concern right now is fighting the main factors that upset the St. Lawrence’s diversity.”

Handling of water samples

A man and a woman working in lab on computers

Narrator -- One goal is to better understand the impact of pharmaceutical substances contained in urban waste water.

Man talking with lab in background

Christian Gagnon, Chief, Wastewaters and Effluents Section, Environment Canada: “Once we’re able to identify and better characterize these substances, we try to assess how exposure to these pharmaceutical substances affects aquatic organisms, such as the fish and molluscs that live in the St. Lawrence.”

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)

Narrator -- Our researchers also focus on the problem of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae.

Woman standing on shore talking

Christiane Hudon, Research Scientist, Aquatic Biodiversity Section, Environment Canada: “I discovered a cyanobacterium covering the bottom of Lake Saint-Pierre. At the time, we were looking for other types of algae and came across this one. It marked a shift, a change that completely upsets the ecosystem. Because once they start to proliferate, cyanobacteria cannot co-exist with the macrophytes that we usually find in the St. Lawrence.”

Examining bottom of St. Lawrence

Christiane Hudon on boat pulling net out of water with aquatic plants in net

Christiane Hudon examining plants just pulled out of water

Narrator -- Aquatic plants, or macrophytes, are the basis for productivity in the St. Lawrence. It is important to understand what may affect them. The introduction of invasive exotic species also upsets the biological diversity and balance of the ecosystem.

Three people work in lab

Parasites shown on computer monitor

Fish swimming in water

Man with bridge and Montréal in background

Yves de Lafontaine, Head, Aquatic Biodiversity Section, Environment Canada: “The St. Lawrence worked in a certain way for thousands of years, but the sudden arrival of a large number of different species will in some ways change the relationship between the different species. That’s what our group is interested in: trying to understand and shed light on these disruptive mechanisms.”

Woman working in lab

Water

View under water of the zebra mussel

Parasites shown on computer monitor

Narrator -- The most common invasive species are the zebra mussel and the round goby. The invaders include parasites, which can affect the health of fish populations.

Fish swimming in tank

Man working in lab examining a bird

Narrator -- Environment Canada’s scientific activities also include the conservation of migratory bird populations and the management of protected areas.

Woman with the St. Lawrence in the background

Chantal Lepire, Public Service Lead, Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, Environment Canada: “In Quebec, Environment Canada manages a network of eight national wildlife reserves, all located along the St. Lawrence, where our work includes protecting the ecological integrity of wetlands.”

Birds flying

Wetlands

The St. Lawrence

Men banding bird

Narrator -- The wetlands and shoreline habitats of the St. Lawrence are home to many bird species, and supply their food. Scoters are the focus of a study we’re conducting in partnership with our American neighbours.

Woman with the St. Lawrence in the background

Christine Lepage, Biologist, Migratory Birds Population Conservation, Environment Canada: “Tracking scoter migration will teach us where scoters go and how long they spend at each place, for conservation purposes. We can anticipate potential conflicts with human activity along the shoreline. We’re acquiring a knowledge base, since not much is known about this type of duck.”

Men on boat with migratory birds in carrying crates

Men on zodiac boat

Woman talking with the St. Lawrence in the background

Men docking zodiac boat carrying two carrying crates to shore

Men in zodiac boat

Men on shore releasing bird back into the water

Bird flies away

Narrator -- The work done by our researchers and professionals allows us to learn more about the St. Lawrence, so we can do a better job of protecting it!

Mobilizing for the St. Lawrence

Many residents and organizations are involved in maintaining the health of the St. Lawrence. Through funding programs like the Community Interaction Program or EcoAction, Environment Canada supports communities in carrying out restoration, awareness and conservation projects.

Mobilizing for the St. Lawrence

Links

Learn more by watching the video Mobilizing for the St. Lawrence.

Transcript

Mobilizing for the St. Lawrence

Environment Canada Logo

“Mobilizing for the St. Lawrence” text appears on screen with a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence in the background

Narrator -- For Quebeckers, the St. Lawrence is a powerful symbol that constantly evokes their history and their heritage. Most of Quebec’s population lives in the St. Lawrence River Valley. Many citizens and organizations are active in keeping the river healthy.

Two people on rocky beach with backpacks

Rocky shores

Man and woman taking picture together in front of big rocks

Woman kayaking

Two people kayaking

Shot of “Bienvenue à la Pointe des Fortin!” sign

Woman standing on the shore, talking

Marie-Pierre Cloutier, Director, Rive nord de l'estuaire ZIP Committee: “What could worry me, in reality, is that people don’t feel as if the river belongs to them. When people don’t take ownership of the river, which can bring them so much, then there’s no civic action.”

Bay from above

Narrator -- To foster local engagement, Environment Canada finances ZIP committees, for Zones d’intervention prioritaire, or areas of prime concern. Made up of regional representatives, these committees play an active role in the protection and conservation of the St. Lawrence.

Three people walking along a path

Group of people gathered in a parking lot

Information sign on salt marsh

Aerial shot of the shore

Plants

Information sign on birds

Man with shoreline in background

Yves Martinet, Director, Îles-de-la-Madeleine ZIP Committee: “Of course, financial and technical partners who support our initiatives, give us a boost and allow us to move forward--all this is welcomed by the community.”

Panoramic view of trees

Man taking picture of Saguenay fjord

Man with shore in background

Pierre Latraverse, Chair of the Board of the Lac Saint-Pierre ZIP Committee: “We work to bring together the various stakeholders from around the lake, so that concrete steps are taken to protect the environment.”

Man talking with St. Lawrence in background

Alexandre Joly, Acting Director, Ville-Marie ZIP Committee: “We work hard on accessibility and ensuring the citizens in our territory have access.”

Dirt road with gate open

“Zone de conservation” sign

Narrator -- Environment Canada also manages funding programs that support environmental activities in communities.

Bird flies over tall grass

Greenery and wetland

Wetland

Narrator -- The Community Interaction program and the EcoAction program provide funds for communities to implement restoration, awareness-raising and conservation projects, such as the ones run by Village Vacances Petit-Saguenay and the Société d'aménagement de la baie Lavallière.

Shoreline

Signs along boardwalk

Man walking down boardwalk

Sign along boardwalk

Bay in the Village-Vacances Petit-Saguenay

Baie Lavallière

Three men talking with bank in background

Franck Turcotte, Director, Village-Vacances Petit-Saguenay: “Before embarking on the project, we worked with the Saguenay ZIP to paint a complete picture of the environment. And of course, we needed a helping hand financially. We couldn’t carry it out by ourselves. Thanks to the Community Interaction program, we were able to put in place a comprehensive project, one that we’re now very proud of.”

Bank

Three men walking down the bank

Man with wetland in background

Paul Messier, Director General, Société d'aménagement de la baie Lavallière: “We put in nesting boxes to assist wood ducks. That was done with Environment Canada and Ducks Unlimited.”

Wetland

Group of people in room with Forum Saint-Laurent sign in background

Two men talking in room with Forum Saint-Laurent sign in background

People in room listening to presentation on Forum Saint-Laurent

Group of people discussing around table

Man giving presentation at the Forum Saint-Laurent

Group of people discussing around table

People exiting presentation room

Group of people talking outside of presentation room

Narrator -- As part of the St. Lawrence Action Plan, Environment Canada organizes the St. Lawrence Forum jointly with the Quebec government. This annual event brings together a broad group of stakeholders involved in the integrated management of the St. Lawrence.

The St. Lawrence

The St. Lawrence with bridge in background

An island and lighthouse

Closer shot of island and lighthouse

The St. Lawrence at dusk

Narrator -- There would be no conservation and protection of the St. Lawrence without the involvement of communities. Because the St. Lawrence is everyone’s business!

Managing the St. Lawrence

The St. Lawrence ecosystem is rich and diverse. Urban areas and wilderness overlap, and the diverging interests of its many inhabitants can sometimes conflict. It is therefore important to ensure collaborative management of the St. Lawrence. To that end, Environment Canada is, among other things, part of the International Joint Commission, an independent organization through which Canada and the United States work together to manage boundary waters, including the St. Lawrence.

Managing the St. Lawrence

Links

Learn more by watching the video Managing the St. Lawrence.

Transcript

Managing the St. Lawrence

Environment Canada Logo

“Managing the St. Lawrence” text appears on screen with a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence in the background

Rocky shores

Shoreline from a boat (docks, houses)

Narrator -- The St. Lawrence is an enormous system that has undergone countless structural changes since the 19th century. Most of Quebec’s population lives in the St. Lawrence River Valley and is concerned about river management.

Woman standing on sandy shores of the St. Lawrence

Françoise Bruault, Director, Sud de l’estuaire ZIP Committee: “Our top concern for the entire territory we have here is what we call coastal hazards, which encompasses everything concerning the erosion of the banks and the swallowing up of land by the St. Lawrence.”

The St. Lawrence

Waves

Water going over a dam

Hydroelectric station

A ship enters a passage

Swinging bridge

Narrator -- While some people want the water levels to be stable, others maintain that fluctuations play an important role. After the sizable Moses Saunders hydroelectric station was built in Cornwall, the International Joint Commission set up an organization to oversee the management of the St. Lawrence water level.

A man talking with a view on the Biosphere building in Montréal in background

International Joint Commission logo with water in background

Philippe Morel, Co-chair, International St. Lawrence River Board of Control, and Regional Director General, Environment Canada: “The International St. Lawrence River Board of Control is part of the International Joint Commission, a bi-national organization--Canadian and American--that manages the waters that mark the boundaries between these two countries.”

Streets flooded, car half-submerged

Flooded houses

Aerial view of flood

Narrator -- In the past, spring runoff of the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River caused major fluctuations in the water level, which resulted in flooding in several places.

The Moses-Saunders Power Dam

Map showing the location of the dam, at the border of Ontario, Quebec and the United States

Running water from a dam

A container ship docked

Narrator -- The construction of the Moses-Saunders dam, originally designed for hydroelectric production and commercial navigation, allowed the St. Lawrence water level to be better managed, while taking into account the needs of different interest groups.

A man talking

Philippe Morel, Co-chair, International St. Lawrence River Board of Control, and Regional Director General, Environment Canada: “One of the important aspects that we take very seriously is civil safety. In other words, in making decisions, we’ll take into account the fact that there may be major spring runoff in certain parts of the river at times. So we’ll reduce the water level upstream to ensure there’s no flooding, in Montréal for example, or elsewhere, during spring runoff.

Man working in a weather office

Up-close shot of weather radar

Water level prediction maps

Water flowing from a dam

A ship going under a bridge

Narrator -- Environment Canada’s role on the International St. Lawrence River Board of Control consists of providing environmental forecasting services in compliance with orders from the International Joint Commission.

Aerial shot of the St. Lawrence

A man working in a weather office

Narrator -- These forecasts, produced by digital modelling, make it possible to simulate the St. Lawrence’s evolution.

Man on screen talking with monitors in the background

Pierre Pellerin, Manager, Environmental Numerical Weather Prediction Research, Environment Canada: “We use absolutely all the observations that exist in the environment--air temperature, humidity, precipitation, water temperature--absolutely all the variables used to create the initial conditions are incorporated into the models. Once we have that, we can initiate and do a complete environmental forecast.”

Grassy wetland

Men working in weather office

Water level prediction maps

Wetland with bird flying

Generation plant by the river

Up-close shot of industrial plant

Narrator -- Modelling allows us to predict fluctuations in the water levels and flows, for example, as well as temperature and water quality variations, ice flow, the breadth of marshes and swamps, changes in fish populations, and how far agricultural or municipal pollutants spread.

Man standing on the shore talking

André Bouchard, Manager, Hydrology and Ecohydraulics Section, Environment Canada: “Integrated modelling tools help us respond to complex issues such as regulating the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence system, evaluating the impact of contaminants on the river’s ecosystem, and responding to environmental emergencies that involve the spilling of floating or soluble pollutants.”

André Bouchard on boat, using monitoring equipment

André Bouchard documenting data on notepad and on computer

Man talking with computers in background

Pierre Pellerin, Manager, Environmental Numerical Weather Prediction Research, Environment Canada: “The development of the environmental forecasting system has been very important. It allows us to better understand the St. Lawrence and to better manage it.”

Man talking with a view on the Biosphere building in Montréal in background

Philippe Morel, Co-chair, International St. Lawrence River Board of Control, and Regional Director General, Environment Canada: “The St. Lawrence ecosystem is one of the most amazing ecosystems in Canada. It’s the ecological lungs of Quebec and contains a tremendous, rich diversity. It has urban environments as well as environments that are still very wild. It’s an ecosystem that we need to learn to appreciate and to benefit from, but we also need to learn to protect and to preserve it for future generations.”

A shoreline of the St. Lawrence

The St. Lawrence under the sun

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