Salmon fishery nets $400,000 boost from Ottawa
MICHAEL GORMAN PROVINCIAL REPORTER
Published March 9, 2015 - 5:52pm
The federal government is casting $400,000 to Nova Scotia in an effort to help dwindling Atlantic salmon stocks.
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea was in Dartmouth on Monday to make the announcement. The money includes $101,000 for a two-year habitat restoration project and $300,000 to repair and rebuild fishways in the province, including at Indian Falls and Grand River.
Shea was also in town for the first meeting of the ministerial advisory committee on Atlantic salmon, a group of 10 people from Atlantic Canada and Quebec tasked with examining enforcement, conservation and predation issues.
They’ll also develop a strategy to address unsustainable and international fishing practices and areas for advancing science.
All these efforts are in response to mounting public concerns about diminished salmon returns, with levels in some areas hitting all-time lows in 2014.
“There used to be 8,000 anglers in Nova Scotia for salmon, there’s now 2,000,” said Rene Aucoin, president of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and a member of the committee.
Aucoin said the habitat restoration project will allow people to adopt a stream and apply for funding to do work to improve the area.
It’s very much the same as adopting a stretch of highway, he said. The Sackville River would be a prime candidate for such work, said Aucoin.
“When you adopt a stream you really want to bring it back to what it should have been originally,” he said.
One of those steps could include addressing culverts that are installed incorrectly, affecting fish that travel the watercourse.
“If you’ve got a culvert in the middle of a stream and the fish can’t get beyond that culvert, then there’s a problem with connectivity. If you can fix that culvert — and they can be fixed, but it costs money — then it allows the fish to move through to spawning areas higher up.”
Gerald Chaput, who works in the science branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said downturns in salmon population aren’t new, but the latest round started in 2012 and has continued to get worse. It’s a bit of a surprise, he said, considering 2011 was a stronger year for salmon populations.
“2014 really kind of set the stage for a lot of people’s concern.”
The last time there was a high abundance for salmon was in the 1980s, said Chaput. The problem is not unique to Atlantic Canada, he said, citing areas of Europe that are facing similar problems.
“That points to kind of a bigger problem, a bigger issue happening in the ocean rather than more of these local (issues) — not to say that there’s not local issues, but the big driver seems to be the ocean environment.”
Shea said all salmon-related work that used to happen at the shuttered Mersey Biodiversity Centre continues at a site in Coldbrook.