First marine-based wild salmon conservation farm designated in New Brunswick
21 June 2016
SAINT ANDREWS (GNB) – New Brunswick’s first designated wild salmon conservation marine site was announced today in Saint Andrews, where provincial, territorial and federal fisheries and aquaculture ministers are meeting.
This is part of a collaborative research project involving the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, federal partners, First Nations, industry and scientists to help the wild salmon population rebound in the Bay of Fundy.
“This is a great example of government working with industry, First Nations, scientists and conservationists and using their combined expertise to realistically affect the outcome for the Atlantic salmon population in our rivers,” said Rick Doucet, minister of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries. “This is good news for the wild salmon population, the environment and the economy.”
The site is located near Grand Manan. It sets the stage for achieving the best results and permits multiple-year classes, allowing smolt to be held and grown until maturity and ensuring that only salmon ready to spawn are returning to the rivers.
“I am excited by this bold and innovative initiative aimed at better understanding and enhancing our wild Atlantic salmon stocks for present and future generations,” said federal Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Minister Dominic LeBlanc. “This research brings together many partners around the common goal of protecting wild Atlantic salmon and their habitats and ensuring a sustainable fishery.”
Atlantic salmon once thrived in the inner Bay of Fundy, but numbers dwindled from 40,000 a half-century ago to fewer than 250 by the year 2000.They are now listed as endangered and protected under the Species at Risk Act.
“The federal government has committed to developing Canada’s national park system and to expanding programs and services so more Canadians can experience these outstanding places and learn more about our environment,” said federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, who is also the minister responsible for Parks Canada. “Through its Conservation and Restoration Program, Parks Canada takes actions to preserve national parks and contribute to the recovery of species-at-risk such as the Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon. This collaborative project is enabling us to restore the environmental health of the national park and the region.”
Various rehabilitation, enhancement and recovery programs were tried during the past two decades to help salmon in the freshwater system. These programs prevented extinction, but the few remaining salmon largely fail to return from the ocean to spawn in rivers.
“We are so proud to be part of this unique collaboration aiming to restore inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon,” said Rebecca Knockwood, chief of Fort Folly First Nation. “Our beloved Petitcodiac River, with its muddy waters, was the lifeblood of our traditional territory and essential to sustaining the salmon of the inner bay. We will continue to lead efforts to restore this iconic species to the mighty Petitcodiac, in Mi k’maq, Pet-Kout-Koy-ek, ‘the river that bends like a bow.’”
New Brunswick is recognized internationally as a salmon fishing destination, with the recreational fishery spurring GDP value of $39.8 million annually and $54.7 in total spending. Recreational salmon angling on the Miramichi River alone contributes $16 million to the GDP and creates 637 full-time equivalent jobs.
“The wild salmon recovery method pioneered by this collaborative project has incredible potential, and our farmers are tremendously enthusiastic about contributing their specialized knowledge and skills toward its success,” said Susan Farquharson, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association.
“Conserving our natural and cultural heritage is key to ensuring the sustainability of our marine and coastal communities,” said Jamey Smith, executive director of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre. “The Huntsman appreciates this opportunity to help protect our iconic wild Atlantic salmon.”
For the past several years, an innovative partnership between Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Fort Folly First Nation, the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association and the Huntsman Marine Science Centre has shown promise to help recover the wild salmon population.
Wild smolts from Fundy National Park rivers and the Petitcodiac River are raised in custom-designed aquaculture net pens, then released into their home rivers prior to the spawning season. This process enables scientists to evaluate whether rearing wild smolt to maturity in marine pens will improve their fitness and survival rate in the wild, compared to traditional stocking methods.
Results from a three-year pilot project suggest fish with less exposure to captivity before the smolt stage have better surviving offspring and overall fitness in the wild.