Matt Dort’s Petition to Save The Northumberland Strait – Protect our Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout gains momentum

After listening to an interview with Matt Dort, I wanted both to drive to Pictou to protest, and buy a fishing rod!

The petition Save The Northumberland Strait – Protect our Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout, started by Northumberland shore sports fishing enthusiast Matt Dort about 3 weeks ago, is gaining momentum. Posted on, it gained more 1000 supporters in the last day, reaching 12,167 as of 6:41 p.m. April 10, 2018.

Says Matt just a few minutes ago: “Today I downloaded the 12,000 + signatures and read the 37 pages of comments. People from all across Canada, US, Australia, Japan, Germany etc all KNOW THE STRAIT! Their comments are motivating, they see the value the Northumberland Strait offers and do not want it and it’s resources put at risk. So please continue to share this petition and create more awareness around the World!”

Some of the raison d’être for the petition given at

Today we have about 25 Sea Trout and Atlantic Salmon bearing rivers that dump into the Northumberland Strait, not counting tributaries.

The Strait is a main passage for our Sea Trout and Atlantic Salmon as well as a place to feed and get energized prior to entering the rivers. However all this is at major risk with the proposed 90 million litres of effluent to be pumped into the Strait a day.

The effluent at the outflow of the pipe is going to come out at 25c in the Winter and 37c in the summer! These temps will dramatically change the diversity and make up of this sensitive and important marine ecosystem. This will increase the overall temperatures of the Strait over time due to the high volume of effluent being pumped a day.

The water temperatures are not the only concern. The makeup of the toxic chemicals that will be part of the effluent pose major threat to marine life. The current mill infrastructure cannot handle the new proposed effluent makeup because it will be to corrosive to their internal setup and that pumping it into the Strait is the most economical option for the Mill. This is info that has been communicated by the Mill in several public forms.

The other obvious threat to the Strait is the colour and clarity of the water will change. The effluent due to its makeup will change the colour of the water at the outflow of the pipe which is positioned a few kms offshore and directly into the Strait. At millions of litres a day, this will impact a very large area and ultimately change the natural state of the ecosystem.

These are only 3 points of a concern from a very long list that.. [the] pipe will cause. Sea Trout and Atlantic Salmon are not the only species at risk here. Herring, Gasperaux, Smelt, Eels, Whales, Atlantic dolphins, Tuna, Mackerel, Striped Bass, etc etc etc – all will be impacted by high water temps, toxic chemicals and water clarity.

I am not so sure the temperature effect will be as large as Matt believes. There is a lot of water flowing through the strait to dilute the effluent. I am not saying it it won’t have a significant effect, I am just guessing that it may not be as significant as Matt thinks it could be. I am pretty sure oceanographers could come up with some rough estimates of the temperature effect fairly readily, although they might need more data then we have at hand on local currents to get good estimates of the extent and magnitude of temperature effects. In any case, that’s probably one of the easier questions to answer. If the effluent were to have a significant effect on temperature that’s a big issue for sure, but if it didn’t, there’s plenty else to worry about.

Much more difficult to assess than temperature effects I would think would be such things as the effects of the chemicals on the homing instincts of fish species migrating to fresh waters, and the extent and impacts of effluent chemicals on sediment chemistry and associated marine life.

Chemical cues are used by migratory fish to navigate and pollutants can interfere with their olfactory (smell) systems. In a recent review, it was commented:

Exposure to environmentally realistic concentrations of toxins interferes with the olfactory system in fish… However, as Tierney et al. (2010) note, studies that explore the effects of toxicity on the spawning migration of salmonids are limited… From a conservation perspective, pollution is perhaps the most critically understudied environmental factor affecting olfaction…In highly polluted systems, which are also often home to declining fish populations, research that focuses on the impact of toxins on the olfactory system and behaviour of migrating fish will help define the severity of the threat that pollution poses. – Olfactory navigation during spawning migrations: a review and introduction of the Hierarchical Navigation Hypothesis by Nolan N. Bett∗ and Scott G. Hinch. 2015. Biological Reviews 91(3):728-59

So while we know pollutants are likely to be a problem, it will very difficult to make firm predictions about the impacts of mill effluent on migratory fish behaviour.

Likewise we have to be concerned about the sorption of effluent chemicals by sediments and the long term impacts. We are just realizing what a mess we have made of Halifax Harbour and how hard it is to clean up because so much of the historic pollution is now stored in the sediments. (View: The State of Nova Scotia’s Coast (2009): Technical Report Ch 8 .)

Our limited ability to predict impacts of such factors does not weaken the arguments against releasing the effluents into the Strait, rather it calls for a highly Precautionary Approach.  That means NO PIPE!

Matt Dort’s publicizing of the possible impacts of The Mill on the sport fishery  opened my eyes to the sport fishery on the Northumberland Shore. Once appreciating how special that fishery is currently and it’s potential, I can only agree with Matt’s position on The Pipe (as well as for many other reasons), and thank him for highlighting the sport fishery.

I listened to Matt on the Sheldon MacLeod Show a while back and have provided an “abbreviated transcript” of the interview below. It’s worth noting from that interview that Matt is not against the mill in any form. He comes a family with direct involvement in the pulp and paper industry. He says we should not be pitting one industry against another, and he argues that the parent company, Asia Pulp and Paper is a billion dollar enterprise that has the wherewithal to do the right thing: construct a system with zero effluent into the Strait.

After listening to the interview, I  wantedboth to drive to Pictou to protest, and buy a fishing rod!

Thanks, Matt, for your boundless enthusiasm and sense of social repsonsibility.


From Matt Dort’s Facebook page

Abbreviated transcript of interview with Matt Dort on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, May 7, 2018 at 2 pm

Sheldon MacLeod (SM) : More than a few are worried about effluents from the Pulp Mill at Abercrombie Point going into the Northumberland Strait. ‘Great news that they will clean up Boat Harbour, but the fix may not be all that great.

… someone who is from New Glascow area and committed to working with conservation groups such as Pictou County Rivers Association, Antigonish Rivers Association. St Mary’s River Association, Northeastern NS Trout Unlimited,: Matt Dort.

You have been outspoken, why is it a bad idea for the sport fishing industry?

The sport fishery: bigger and better than most people realize

Matt Dort (MD): Today the sport fishing industry is worth about $65 million in NS; there are about 50,000 licences sold per year not counting people under 17. The northern industry is a big part of the industry in NS and one of the most sought after fishing destinations in NS. It extends from Amherst to Margaree and it has at least 25 plus rivers with sea trout and Atlantic salmon. These are world class sized fish, e,g. sea trout and book trout can push 5 lbs, brown trout up 15-20 lbs, and Atlantic salmon pushing 39 pounds.

A lot of people take trips to Patagonia, new Zealand, Quebec, New Brunswick and spend 1000s of $ to target these fish, but we have these fish in our back yard and they deserve to be protected.

There’s no risk-free method to pump toxic effluent into the Strait

SM: … you are talking about the impact of the Northern Pulp’s Pipe plan …are you saying just don’t do it?

MD: Pumping the effluent into the ocean, I am just dead set against. There’s no risk-free method to pump toxic effluent into the Strait. The effluent is supposed to come out at up to 70-90 million liters per day of toxic effluent pumped into the strait about 9 km offshore. That effluent is going to be 25 degrees C in winter up to 37 degrees in summer.

The strait is home to a large no of marine and aquatic species that are all cold water species. So at that rate of effluent per day over 5 or 10 years it is obvious that the temperature of the Strait will increase dramatically.

SM: The plant has been there for many years… there is talk about opening the causeway and allowing more ocean water to flow in an out. Would that help at all?

MD: Not at all. Boat Harbour today is an official, documented environmental disaster. That waste process is going to be addressed… but the solution is not take that waste, improve it slightly and dump into the Strait directly.

That new process will have toxic chemicals in it, chlorines, metals, doxins et cetera. The current monitoring only measures some of them. The federal Dept of Environment and Climate Change has documented that 70% of the paper mills in Canada today are having harmful effects on aquatic life and habitat despite their meeting current regulations.

So the regulations are not enough to reduce the impacts on our Atlantic salmon and trout.

SM: Matt, … some people say if the Mill can’t operate with environmental sensitivity, it should be shut down. How do you feel about that?

Matt on his family’s involvement in pulp and paper

MD: My family and myself were brought up on a pulp mill and we have a combined experience of about 35 years working at another mill in NS, so I do understand the value and importance of the pulp mill to NS and Pictou & I have many close friend and relatives that work at the mill;I I don’t want to see it shut down.

But I will say that mill is owned by Asia P&P, it is a $1 billion company owned in Indonesia.
They have the financial bench strength without a doubt to put in a process or develop one to deal with their waste. They can’t just put in in the Strait and allow three other industries – sport fishing, commercial fishing and tourism – to suffer because of a process that they are required to fix.

SM: Isn’t the argument with the Government of Nova Scotia?

MD: I agree…the Government, Northern Pulp and rest of the industry need to sit at the table and come up with a process that works for everybody. We can’t have one industry pitted against another because there will be failure at some point with multiple industries affected.

SM: So where from here…?

MD: I am hoping the Minister of Environment for NS is listening, I am hoping the federal government gets involved… at the very least that a Class 2 EA is done. That would be a 275 day assessment; it’s a very rigorous process

We should rename Pictou “Pictogonia”!

SM: How is the fishery in Pictou County doing?

MD: The sport fishing industry is absolutely amazing. It’s a bit of a joke but Patagonia is viewed across the world as having the best fishing, the biggest brown trout, but the nickname we now have for Pictou is “Pictogonia” There are huge fishing opportunities. Many people from out of province come here; it is the first stop to fish when they come from the airport to go to Cape Breton; and it’s the last stop on their way back

SM: Do you have a problem with striped bass in Pictou Co?

MD: We have an abundance of striped bass on the whole shore.. the population has blown up to almost ½ million fish, but that’s something the Department of Fisheries is attempting to manage, but it is very popular on the Gulf shore to fish for them

SM: Thanks for being on the show..,

*A note about the “abbreviated transcripts”. I post “abbreviated transcripts” of interviews on radio and TV as a matter of record, a prime objective of this blog being to keep track of Nova Scotia forestry in the news (see About this site). One can listen to the interviews, but in this rushed world it’s faster to read the transcript, albeit you miss some of the nuances. It is not Hansard, and for the sake of getting though it in less than a day, the transcript is not always precise, but I attempt not to change the essence of what is said in any way, and in most cases one can check out the original audio files or videos. I also do it because it makes me listen carefully to what is being said, whether I like what’s being said or not. For this interview, which was 10 minutes long, I have added a few subtitles.

shopify analytics ecommerce

This entry was posted in Conservation, Economics, Pulp & Paper, Recreation. Bookmark the permalink.