Emerging Challenges

BARC and other stakeholders continue to address the major challenges to the restoration of the Harbour. Below are a few of the emerging challenges facing Hamilton Harbour.


Drugs or chemical compounds with Endocrine Disrupting capabilities, i.e. capable of interfering with an animal’s hormone system, have been appearing in treated waste water. Currently, the treatment plants are unable to remove these chemicals. Consequently, tainted water is simply dumped into the Harbour.

Pharmaceuticals elicit negative impacts on aquatic species, one of which is impaired reproduction – fish and amphibians are unable to reproduce. Pharmaceuticals commonly include hormones, e.g. estrogen, which can cause changes in the hormone levels essentially “feminizing” a male individual. This results in developmental abnormalities and fish which are both male and female.  
FACT: Pharmaceuticals not only enter aquatic systems from industrial and residential sewage, but also from agricultural run-off which include livestock manure.

Invasive Species

Human activity has increased nitrogen, phosphorus and changed water levels: all which often favour invasive species over our native plants and animals. Many invasive species are also less sensitive to their environment (i.e .they do well in polluted water), and have few natural predators. Although Hamilton Harbour already supports common carp, concern is rising over the likelihood of additional carp species, entering our waters from the Mississippi River system. Carp are masters of degrading ecosystems; they compete with other species for resources, interfere with the spawning and reproduction of native fish and wildlife species, uproot aquatic plants (a source of food and habitat) and in the process, release sediments, clouding the water and preventing the growth of new vegetation. 
Goldfish are beginning to thrive in areas of Hamilton Harbour. The Royal Botanical Gardens has said that as many as 2,500 large goldfish and 2 million young. Due to climate change and poor water conditions, the survival of native species is hindered. RBG suggests that the perfect conditions for goldfish are beginning to show in Hamilton Harbour, such as warmer water temperatures and poor water quality due to contaminated overflow. These conditions negatively impact native species and their ability to compete with invasives, such as the goldfish. The city is spending millions in improvements to the Woodward Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant. The cleaning up of Randle Reef (link), will also contribute to improved water quality.
FACT: Since its inception in 1997, the Royal Botanical Garden's Fishway has removed nearly all of the estimated 10,000 carp swimming in Cootes Paradise.
Visit caisn.ca to get the latest scoop on invasive species in Canada!  

Land Redevelopment

As seen in the history of Hamilton Harbour, human settlement can impact wildlife habitats through land development and/or resource extraction. These developments can also alter hydrology through diversion and dredging. When developing land the surrounding ecological impacts should be top of mind, especially in relation to achieving the goals of the Remedial Action Plan.
The current development underway in Hamilton’s West Harbour represents a valuable opportunity to pursue remediation while simultaneously improving the built-environment. Outlined in the City of Hamilton’s "Setting Sail" plan for West Harbour development, promoting a healthy harbour is a top priority. This commitment to a “swimmable” harbour with rich aquatic and terrestrial habitats requires a comprehensive plan, which the City outlines as:

1. Implementing best practice techniques for stormwater management in order to minimize the reliance on the existing combined sewer system;
2. Encouraging water conservation;
3. Maintaining and/or enhancing existing aquatic and shoreline habitats;
4. Removing, replacing, or sealing potentially harmful sub-surface materials;
5. Identifying and protecting key views and improve public access to the harbour
6. Increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of the harbour and its watershed from an ecological perspective.

You can read BARC's position statement on West Harbour redevelopment here