The Fishway

Located at the mouth of the Desjardins Canal—the only channel that connects Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour—the Fishway is the Great Lakes' first two-way fishway and carp barrier, and is one of the most visible indicators of the progress of Project Paradise.

The Fishway began operating in 1997. It is designed to keep non-native carp out of Cootes while maintaining the flow of water and populations of native aquatic species.

Before the installation of the Fishway, Cootes Paradise had an estimated carp population of about 70,000 adults. During the Fishway's first year of operation, 95% of carp were excluded from the marsh, and since then this number has continued to drop, with monitoring in recent years consistently finding less than 1,000 adult carp in the marsh.

Eliminating carp from Cootes Paradise is considered a vital first step in the marsh restoration process.

Understanding the results

Ongoing fish kills in adjacent Hamilton Harbour due to impaired oxygen levels, and fish diseases such has VHS (arrived 2007) continue to suppress fish numbers, despite improved marsh reproductive habitat. The impaired oxygen is a direct result of large volumes of partially and untreated sewage entering the harbour. The decomposing sewage uses up the oxygen, particularly through the processes of ammonia denitrification.

Educational opportunities

The Fishway provides excellent opportunities for the public to view native fish up close, and learn about the conservation projects that are helping to restore this ecologically sensitive wetland. Public tours are available during regular operating hours, and school tours can be booked through our educational programs.