Hundreds of salmon returned to N.B. rivers in effort to rebuild population
The Atlantic salmon has been disappearing for decades but efforts are underway to restore fish stocks to Maritime rivers and streams.
Rivers in the Bay of Fundy were once home to more than 40,000 wild Atlantic salmon. Those numbers have nosedived to about 200 fish.
A few years ago, salmon were removed from rivers in Fundy National Park and grown to maturity at a Cooke Aquaculture site on Grand Manan. Hundreds of those salmon were returned to rivers in Fundy National Park on Wednesday, hoping it will start a comeback for the endangered species.
“So we can bring these adults back, put them into our rivers and while they’re there, they spawn, they make a new generation,” says Alex Parker, a biologist with Parks Canada. “The new generation spends a whole life in the wild, so again, we get the best fish, the most fit fish for our rivers.”
Vats of salmon were flown by helicopter deep into Fundy Park, where they were released and will hopefully thrive.
“I think anything you do, there’s a degree of experimenting in what you’re working on, but this is grounded in pretty solid science,” says New Brunswick Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet.
For generations, the wild Atlantic salmon was a staple for settlers, and long before them, for First Nations. A native elder presided over a ceremonial blessing of the salmon before the fish were flown into Fundy National Park. The Fort Folly First Nation has been involved in salmon restoration projects for over a decade.
“It’s very important to bring it back and restore a healthy habitat so that everybody can enjoy it,” says Fort Folly First Nation Chief Rebecca Knockwood.
Other restoration projects have seen some encouraging results. Two rivers in the park have recently recorded salmon counts at a 20-year high, though the numbers are still far from what they were decades ago.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron