© Terry Kelly Saint John River

Wolastoq (Saint John River)

WWF-Canada is working with the local community to ensure that this river and its resources remain healthy and secure while supporting wildlife recovery.

The Wolastoqiyik call it Wolastoq, meaning “beautiful and bountiful river.” And when you see the Saint John River, it’s easy to understand why. People have lived here for more than 10,000 years. The maze of blind bays, tributaries, lakes and marshlands has been the lifeblood of New Brunswick and a significant part of Canada’s history. People living in the towns that grew along the Wolastoq/Saint John’s banks followed the rhythm of the river’s freezes and thaws, log drives and floods and the run of Atlantic salmon coursing from the Bay of Fundy upriver to spawn.

© Terry Kelly View of Saint John River

What is the Issue?

Growing development in the watershed has negatively affected the health of the Wolastoq (Saint John River). Agricultural runoff, point-source pollution like spills from municipalities and industrial sites, as well as fragmentation from dams, roads and rail infrastructure has increased the level of stress on the river. Water quality is of particular concern as the levels of certain contaminants have regularly exceeded water quality thresholds.

Climate change is also adding compounding pressure on the river system, resulting in an increased frequency and intensity of rain, blizzards, ice, and windstorms leading to flooding, habitat loss and degradation. Along with ecosystem damage, these events have had significant impacts on the local community – including negative health effects, infrastructure damage, and economic loss. This great, historic river is at risk from increasing and compounding stressors.

In addition to the pressures facing the river itself, wildlife in the region are struggling under the weight of human-caused stressors. Nearly 50 plants and animals in the watershed are assessed as at risk of extinction.

What WWF-Canada is Doing

Planning for Resilience

To promote a healthy and resilient watershed that supports rich biodiversity and vibrant economies, the Wolastoq (Saint John River) watershed must be restored after years of damage from pollution and habitat fragmentation.

Through public and private funding opportunities, WWF-Canada is supporting on-the-ground restoration efforts that include tree planting, water quality improvement and stream restoration projects. These opportunities allow our partners to take a more holistic approach to restoration on the Wolastoq.

Each year, WWF-Canada hosts an annual Wolastoq/Saint John River Summit that brings experts, government agencies, First Nations, watershed groups and communities together to learn, share, discuss and experience the river, leading to a healthier and more resilient Wolastoq (Saint John River).

Testing a new approach for species at risk

Without intervention, species at risk in the Wolastoq (Saint John River) face a dire future. Working with the University of British Columbia with support from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, WWF-Canada has implemented Priority Threat Management, a new decision-making process, to identify and implement the conservation actions that will have the greatest impact on the largest number of species, taking costs, benefits and feasibility into consideration.

Read the report

© Terry Kelly Woman looking at Saint John River

What You Can Do

North American beaver

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Shoreline Cleanup Participants


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© Terry Kelly / WWF-Canada landscape of freshwater

Learn More About our Freshwater Work

WWF-Canada is working towards a future where all Canadian waters are in good condition, by building water-resilient communities, bringing big-water data to decision-making tables and creating a culture of water stewardship across the country.

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