Vermillion Lake, Banff, Alberta, Canada., Jay Huang
Vermillion Lake, Banff, Alberta, Canada. © Jay Huang


Canada has about 20% of the world's freshwater.

Why freshwater matters

For fish

  • The thousands of lakes and rivers that lace Canada's boreal forest support a wide diversity of freshwater fish, including lake trout, sturgeon and walleye, which are a staple food for local residents and a sought-after prize for anglers.
  • Ontario's northern boreal includes five of Canada’s few remaining undammed watersheds – a very rare commodity among the heavily dammed rivers of North America. Changes to aquatic habitat brought about by hydroelectric projects or road crossings could have big impacts on the more than 50 freshwater fish species found in the thousands of lakes and rivers that make this area as much water as land.

For birds

  • Lakes in the northern boreal mountains provide critical refuelling stops for waterfowl and shorebirds migrating to and from nesting grounds in the Arctic. Songbirds that winter as far away as South America breed in the region’s lowland forests and wetlands.

For people

  • The Yukon, Taku, Stikine, and Alsek Rivers support Pacific salmon runs that sustain river otters, bald eagles, and humans, including some of the 14 First Nations whose Traditional Territories lie in this approximately 419,000 km2 region.

Our solutions

Monitoring freshwater fish

  • We're conducting field research on Lake Sturgeon in Ontario and working closely with the Moose Cree First Nation on stewardship efforts for this ancient fish.
  • We studied how changing environmental conditions affect reproduction in Yukon's Chinook salmon.

Science for good planning

  • We compiled information on climate, elevation, and hydrology across the Arctic drainage basin and examined almost a century of scientific fish sampling records to predict which northern Ontario watersheds are likely the most important for freshwater fish, and thus most in need of protection.

The water we share

Why we're focused on the far north in Ontario, and what we are doing to conserve its incredible freshwater ecosystems.


Learning from Lake Sturgeon

Learning from Lake Sturgeon

Big fish need healthy rivers.


Stories and op-eds

New insights into an ancient fish

New insights into an ancient fish

Known as namew in Ililîmowin (the Moose Cree dialect), lake sturgeon in English: these are the largest freshwater fish in Canada.
Claire Farrell
Fewer frogs are a sign of a changing world

Fewer frogs are a sign of a changing world

The WCS Canada assessment on the State of Frogs in Canada finds that nearly half of all frog species are at some level of risk.
Meagan Simpson
Connecting with Rivers: Reflections from Moose Cree Youth Ocean Skye Phillips

Connecting with Rivers: Reflections from Moose Cree Youth Ocean Skye Phillips

My name is Ocean Phillips. I’m a 20-year-old Moose Cree youth, living in Kapuskasing Ontario.

Media coverage

Study shows impacts on Yukon chinook salmon due to weather, streamflow and more

Late 2023 study suggests positive and negative environmental impacts on the chinooks’ productivity
2024-01-29 | Yukon News

Our team

Constance O'Connor

Constance O'Connor

Director, Ontario Northern Boreal Program

Haley MacLeod

Haley MacLeod

Postdoctoral Fellow

Press releases

Lake Sturgeon in deeper trouble than previously thought

Lake Sturgeon in deeper trouble than previously thought

Northern Ontario is one of the last strongholds for a species now considered endangered worldwide.