More Upper Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Return Home

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An endangered species once found by the thousands in the river waters of Fundy National Park is finally making a comeback like never before.

“This is an extremely encouraging sign and we are very excited about it,” said John Whitelaw, Endangered Species Ecologist for Fundy National Park.

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Whitelaw said 102 Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon have returned from the ocean to spawn in the Upper Salmon River and Point Wolf River in the park since July. He said it was the highest annual number recorded since 1989.

“We don’t get a lot of wins in this business for the amount of work we put into it and as people can understand trying to recover an endangered species is a tough feat,” Whitelaw said.

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About 40,000 Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon once populated 40 rivers in the east, a number that has dropped in recent years to 100 or less. “It’s gone through a really drastic decline over the past three decades,” Whitelaw said.

Over the past five years, researchers from the Fundy Salmon Recovery Project have collected juveniles hatched from the river to be reared to maturity on the world’s first wild Atlantic salmon marine conservation farm on managed Grand Manan Island. by Cooke Aquaculture, Whitelaw said.

He said the premise of the research project is to limit human contact with fish.

“The less fish can stay in captivity, the stronger they are and the better equipped they are to survive in the wild,” he said.

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These wild salmon were released into rivers in the hope that they would return home to spawn. Kurt Samways, a professor at UNB and Parks Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Restoration, said their numbers far exceeded expectations.

“When we started to see these fish coming back and we got the numbers, I couldn’t believe it,” Samways said.

Samways said the success of the project offers hope for biologists hoping to bring salmon back to the brink of extinction.

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He said what is also remarkable is that the fish that were released just two years ago have changed in appearance and behavior.

“We have seen these fish progress to look and behave more wild,” he said.

Their adaptation is cause for celebration because the more wild the fish get, the better their chances of survival, Samways said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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