New Brunswick Museum publishes Indigenous guide to freshwater mussels

Freshwater mussels carpet the bottom of many New Brunswick rivers and lakes. Not that one would want to eat them- apparently they taste a lot like mud!  Nonetheless, New Brunswick freshwater mussels (a group distinct from the marine mussels so popular in local seafood restaurants) play a vital role in freshwater habitats. Freshwater mussels filter water, provide food for other wildlife species and serve as important sentinels of environmental health, especially the health of fish populations. But world-wide, many freshwater mussels are of conservation concern. One species, previously limited in Canada to New Brunswick, no longer occurs in Canada, and two other Maritime freshwater mussels are now listed under federal species-at-risk legislation. With Indigenous communities and watershed protection groups in the Maritimes increasingly involved in monitoring species of concern, the New Brunswick Museum has released a brief guide to the 11 Maritime freshwater mussel species. Most noteworthy, the guide has been produced in four languages, Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaw, French, and English, and is one of the first publications in the region to combine all four languages.

This guide, intended to help support field surveys, was produced with support from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and jointly with the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN). Dr. Donald McAlpine, New Brunswick Museum Research Curator of Zoology and the instigator of the project observes that “the New Brunswick Museum houses the largest freshwater mussel collection in the Maritimes and together NBM and CMN staff have published extensive research on this group of organisms. Given these strengths, the New Brunswick Museum and Canadian Museum of Nature staff were the obvious ones to undertake the production of this guide.”

Dr. André Martel, Research Scientist in Malacology with the Canadian Museum of Nature and a guide co-author notes that, “I was really pleased with the result of this project and our team will be presenting it to groups of First Nations and river keepers outside the Maritimes as a model for similar projects elsewhere”. Species at-Risk Biologist Ree Brennin Houston with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) co-ordinated DFO support for the project and hopes that this project will help Indigenous and environmental groups with the river surveys they conduct each summer. Their work to document the health, abundance, and diversity of freshwater mussels in Atlantic Canada will help fulfill the conservation measures outlined in the Management Plans for mussel species at risk in Canada. DFO hopes that, with the help of this guide, new and important information can be collected that will help manage and conserve freshwater mussels and their habitats in Maritime Canada.

Printed on Tyvec the guide is completely waterproof and designed to be popped in a back pocket or a rucksack. Dr. McAlpine, says that he “hopes the mussels guide will play a role in conserving Indigenous languages, as well as freshwater mussels”.

An electronic version of the mussel guide can be downloaded on here.

For more information:

Caitlin Griffiths or Aristi Dsilva, Communications & Marketing, New Brunswick Museum
(506) 654-7059 or (506) 643-2358