Hundreds of wild Atlantic salmon released back into the Bay of Fundy


Hundreds of wild Atlantic salmon released back into the Bay of Fundy

Endangered wild salmon – reared at the world’s first wild salmon conservation farm – were released back to their native rivers Thursday in Fundy National Park.

Ecologist Corey Clarke says the Fundy Salmon Recovery Project is starting to see more signs of salmon breeding on their own in the rivers of the inner bay.

“This river has wild Atlantic salmon spawning in it in large numbers. Historic numbers, really,” Clarke says. “That is providing the ecosystem a level of productivity it hasn’t seen in decades.”

Clarke says the project found more success when it started releasing adult salmon rather than juveniles, turning to Grand Manan’s Cooke Aquaculture to raise the fish prior to their release. A record 1,000 adult fish will be back in the wild by the end of the fall, with 800 returning to the bay Thursday.

Once the endangered wild Atlantic salmon are in the river, it’s up to the University of New Brunswick and Fundy Salmon Recovery to track their movements from there.

“We have a sonar camera that runs 24 hours a day, so even in the dark of night we can detect fish moving by it,” says UNB research associate Kurt Samways. “Every fish we’ve released has a small tag in it, and so when it passes by one of our antennas we can pick it up and know if it’s moving upstream or downstream.”

Of the 800 salmon released last year, UNB noted 16 that returned, but says another eight or so fish may have escaped detection.

“That might not sound like a large number, but 16 fish would total more than multiple years put together on most inner Bay of Fundy rivers,” Clarke says.

Despite the encouraging signs, young Atlantic salmon still have a less than one per cent survival rate when leaving the bay. The cause of the high mortality rate is unknown.

The group hopes improved technology and continued releases will solve some of the mysteries surrounding the endangered species.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.