Canada’s government, aquaculture industry team up on wild Atlantic salmon conservation project

Published on
June 22, 2016

Canada’s government, First Nations, industry partners including Cooke Aquaculture and scientists representing several of the country’s academic institutions have come together to create one of the country’s first designated wild Atlantic salmon conservation marine sites near Grand Manan in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick.

The once-numerous wild Atlantic salmon population in the Bay of Fundy now numbers around 250 total animals, qualifying it as an endangered species entitled to protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The Grand Manan site will allow wild smolts from Fundy National Park rivers and the Petitcodiac River to be 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, according to an announcement on 21 June.

“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 Canada’s 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.”

The project is 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. Results from a recently completed three-year pilot project suggest salmon with less exposure to captivity before the smolt stage have better surviving offspring and overall fitness in the wild, leading to the current stage of the project, the announcement said.

“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, Canada’s minister of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries. “This is good news for the wild salmon population, the environment and the economy.”

According to the announcement, New Brunswick’s recreational salmon fishery is valued at CND 39.8 million (USD 31.1 million, EUR 27.6 million) annually.
“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.

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