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Fauna - Environment - Saguenay : An exceptional fjord!

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Food chain graphic

Food chain

The Saguenay (fresh water and salt water) shelters some 76 fish species while over 60 of these are found exclusively in the fjord . One can find fresh water fish like the speckled trout or the rainbow smelt as well as typical salt water species like the cod, Atlantic redfish and even the enigmatic Greenland shark, also called "Laimargue".
This amazing diversity has is due to the proximity of many different habitats because, strangely, the Saguenay consists of two waterways curculating one into and onto the other. On the surface, are briny waters coming in from fresh water rivers flowing into the fjord and in the deep, the sea, cold and salted waters coming in from the Saint Lawrence estuary. These two bodies of water barely mix, the reason being their different temperatures and salinity. To what can we compare this phenomenon? Imagine for an instant, fresh water rivers flowing out and being carried far away, because they literally float on top of the fjord's salted waters. It's like millions of fresh water droplets sliding on a huge glass rink being carried out by the currents towards the Saint Lawrence. One of the effects of these two layers of water on most of its inhabitants is their isolation. Besides, very few species can travel vertically from one habitat to another. The biodiversity is very rich and the exceptional ecological conditions arethus making the Saguenay a very favorable environment to sustain life.

The surface layer fish : The fish living in the surface layer need a slightly salted habitat. They are more often than not migrating species travelling from fresh to salt waters either to reproduce or to feed. To the fishermen's delight, they are mostly found in the shallow waters near the shore. Around 18 species are found strickly in Saguenay's fresh water or in its briny surface layer. Here is an insight of the most numerous or unusual inhabitants of this rare and very rich environment.

One of the surface layer's typical inhabitant is the rainbow smelt. This small fish loves to travel in schools and did you know it smells like cucumber? Strange for a fish… The smelt is literally a "living buffet" because it is the prey for a number of predatory fish and even for the seagull who shamelessly feasts on them delecting on this small sea cucumber.

Rainbow smelt

Showing off blue, red and white colors, the brook trout is a spectacular fish. It is very feisty and fast; it has an insatiable appetite. It loves either a good smelt meal or one of the multitude of inverterbrate organisms found in its habitat. The sea trout is also called the anadromus speckled trout, yessiree, it's the little trout we know so well in the Saguenay's fresh water, it takes on the looks of the salmon and its growth is much faster.

Brook trout

It said to be of anadrome shape although the briny waters of the surface layer are the ideal habitat for its development, it always has to come back to its river of origin for its reproduction and to lay its eggs.

Black sturgeon

One of the surface layer's most mysterious inhabitant is the black sturgeon. This patriarch can live up to 60 years or more and the females are larger than the males, they can reach a weight of 200 kg. This fish has a medieval like armour, one can say it looks like an aquatic rhinoceros. Its body is covered with a bony carapace making it look like something out of prehistoric times.

With its nose, it loves to search in the mud for benthic inverterbrates (organisms living in the river beds). However, something very bizarre was observed by some biologists: many sturgeons were found with elastics around their snout. The reason? Certain postal employees would throw elastics in the street, these eventually finding their way by passing in the sewerage system into the sturgeon's habitat. By burrowing in the mud, our poor friend would be stuck with an elastic caught around its snout and thus had great difficulty to feed. Fortunately, the postal workers now recuperate elastics and are very happy to help in the protection of the sturgeon.

The american eel looks like a snake but its really a fish. It has a strange life cycle, first of all, its a catadromous shaped fish which means that it travels from top to bottom, from lakes to fresh water rivers and then to the ocean. All eels reproduce in the sea. And not just anywhere, in the Sargasso sea, in the open sea near Cuba. After having layed their eggs, the adults die but the baby eels, being the next generation, faithfully reach the shore. Then with great courage they go up rivers to feed in fresh waters for many years before coming back to spawn in the Sargasso sea, in the same sector as the previous generation

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