Saint John Harbour Node

SaintJohnHarbour picCalled the Wolastoq or W’alustuk, meaning the “Bountiful Beautiful River”, by the Maliseet people of the Saint John River valley, the Saint John River is about 700 km long. About 30 per cent of the watershed is the headwaters in Maine and Quebec, and from here the river flows through the north-south length of eastern New Brunswick before emptying into the Bay of Fundy. 

The height difference from low to high tide is approximately 8 metres due to the funneling effect of the Bay of Fundy as it narrows. The Reversing Falls at the mouth of the river is an area of strong rapids and provides one example of the power of these tides; at every high tide, ocean water is pushed through a narrow gorge in the middle of the city and forces the river to reverse its flow for several hours.

Challenges related to water management in this watershed

The Saint John Harbour is the first watershed research nodes for Canadian Water Network, and is located at the confluence of Saint John River and Bay of Fundy. It has been an operational harbour since the 1700s and is home to large industrial facilities including an oil refinery, pulp mill, brewery, sewage treatment plant, as well as a hub for significant tourism activities with more than 300 cruise ships annually. The Harbour is also undergoing significant development as a center of international trade including a liquefied natural gas terminal and expansion of potash exports. Environmental monitoring data is not consistently shared or utilized; it is inconsistent in collection and reporting for water management decisions.  While many studies have been done on the types and levels of contaminants in urban and industrialized areas, and the effects of development on fish and sediment-dwelling invertebrates, few have focused on developing optimal long-term monitoring programs and to establish reference and baseline conditions and thresholds against which changes of concern can be identified. 

CWN-funded work and who is involved

The main research objective of the project is to build consistency in monitoring programs in the Saint John Harbour by understanding the spatial and temporal variability in sediment contaminants, macroinvertebrates and the best biosentinel species being determined by this project. The goal of the research is to design a long term monitoring program for the harbour that is recognized by regulators and users, and enable the incorporation of the information with partners and end users. 

The following researchers are conducting research through CWN's Saint John Harbour Node:

  • Karen Kidd, University of New Brunswick Saint John's; Canadian Rivers Institute
  • Allen Curry, University of New Brunswick Fredericton; Canadian Rivers Institute
  • Simon Courtenay, Department of Fisheries and Oceans; Canadian Rivers Institute; University of New Brunswick Fredericton
  • Heather Hunt, University of New Brunswick Saint John's

Additional research team members include Huntsman Marine Centre, 4 graduate students and 3 technicians.