Considerable efforts have been made to protect and restore habitats for fish and wildlife within the Toronto and Region Area of Concern.

This has included restoring and creating coastal wetlands, restoring and naturalizing shorelines, restoring habitat lost through urban development and creating new habitats to support the complex lifecycle requirements for fish and wildlife.


Terrestrial Habitat Creation and Enhancement

Between 2007 and 2015, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and its partners created a total of 367 hectares of natural cover throughout the Area of Concern. Habitat has been created or enhanced through wetland, riparian, reforestation and meadow restoration programs.


Watershed priorities relating to natural cover, aquatic conditions, hydrologic factors and terrestrial natural heritage values are identified through TRCA’s Integrated Restoration Plan. This allows the identification of priority restoration areas.


These areas are then included in the Restoration Opportunities Bank, which includes not only opportunities for riparian restoration, but also opportunities to restore wetlands, forests, meadows and in-stream conditions.


Kortright Farm Wetland

Kortright Farm Wetland



Aquatic Habitat Restoration

Along the waterfront, more than 30 hectares of coastal wetlands have been created or restored since 2000 — including sites at Tommy Thompson Park, Mimico Waterfront Park, Spadina Quay, Rouge Marshes and the mouths of Highland Creek and Humber River — as part of a comprehensive restoration effort under the Toronto Waterfront Aquatic Habitat Restoration Strategy (TWAHRS).


Efforts to create and restore aquatic habitat to improve fish and wildlife populations and to promote more environmentally friendly urban spaces are coordinated through TWAHRS with guidance from Aquatic Habitat Toronto.


Queen's Quay Revitalization Project

Spadina Quay Revitalization project



Five recreational fishing nodes have been installed along the Toronto waterfront since 2014. These nodes serve as a public access point to the waterfront and provide a safe space for recreational fishing, birding and nature appreciation.


In the immediate area surrounding the fishing node, aquatic habitat has been improved by installing woody material and rock shoals. Many other similar recreational fishing access points are becoming integrated into new projects as a result of the Urban Recreational Fisheries Strategy for the Lake Ontario Northwest Waterfront.

recreational fishing node

A recreational fishing node.



Designated as an Environmentally Significant Area on the Toronto waterfront, Tommy Thompson Park is a 500-hectare man-made wilderness park that extends 5 km into Lake Ontario. The park provides an outstanding opportunity to restore coastal wetland habitat that once flourished along the Toronto shoreline prior to the settlement and development of the city.


Tommy Thompson Park contains three confined disposal facilities that were created to dispose of contaminated sediments dredged from the Keating Channel and Toronto Harbour. Cells 1 and 2 were filled to capacity in 1985 and 1997, respectively. Capping and restoration of Cell 1 was completed in 2007, converting it to a 7-hectare coastal wetland. In 2016, Cell 2 was capped with clean fill to physically and biologically isolate the contaminated sediment, improving water and sediment quality, to create a 9.3-hectare hemi-marsh ecosystem for fish and wildlife.


Tommy Thompson Park wetland

Cell 2 wetland at Tommy Thompson Park


Habitat features include deep water pockets for overwintering fish, amphibians and turtles, in-water shoals, root wads and other submerged structures for fish reproduction, nursery and foraging habitat, aquatic emergent and floating vegetation areas, islands for Common Tern nesting and turtle nesting, an isolated area for amphibian reproduction, a robust riparian area with meadow and shrub vegetation communities and a fish and water level control structure to prevent large Common Carp from entering the wetland and damaging the habitat.


Restoration of the Cell 2 wetland is expected to be completed by spring 2018. This video from TRCA looks at the transformation of Cell 2:




In 2015, 1 hectare of wetland was restored in the Lower Humber River. Restoration was achieved by installing a water control structure, a carp gate and submerged aquatic habitat structures.


The water control structure helps to accelerate aquatic plant growth by providing the ability to manage water levels as needed. The carp gate excludes Common Carp which are extremely damaging to aquatic plants. Excluding carp enables aquatic plants to grow and provide spawning, nursery and feeding habitat for Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass.



During the last 200 years of settlement, the six watersheds in the Toronto and Region Area of Concern have been affected by the construction of concrete weirs and dams. Since the mid-1990s, significant effort has been placed on reconnecting these watersheds to allow for the passage of migratory fish from Lake Ontario.


fish leaps from the water near a dam

Dams and other barriers inhibit the passage of migratory fish from Lake Ontario.


Actions to remove dams and construct fishways and bypass channels have resulted in better connections for migratory species. Naturally-reproducing migratory Rainbow Trout can now be found in the Rouge and Humber Rivers, and White Sucker can successfully navigate up the Rouge River from Lake Ontario to Highway 7 in Markham. In the fall, Chinook Salmon can be seen swimming up the Don River toward Richmond Hill and Vaughan.


Further effort is needed in the coming years to restore connections between the lake and the habitats in the Humber River and Etobicoke, Highland and Mimico Creeks.



The Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Project will transform the mouth of the Don River, including the Keating Channel, into a healthier, more naturalized river outlet to Toronto’s Inner Harbour.


mouth of the Don River

Mouth of the Don River


Completion of this project will lead to improved aesthetic conditions along the Toronto waterfront and will create over 1 km of new river channel, 14 hectares of aquatic habitat and wetlands and 16 hectares of new parkland to enhance biodiversity and help clean our water.


These projects are integral to reducing bacteria, nutrients and suspended sediment to the nearshore, which will support continued water quality improvement, reduce the risk of developing eutrophic conditions and improve aquatic habitat and ecosystem health along the waterfront.