Another Invasive Species Shows Up
Tim Sharpe, a guide working on the Gander River, had his attention drawn to what appeared to be a salmon swimming erratically in the river, not far from shore, between the Third and Fourth pools of the river. It disappeared, then Sharpe spotted it again, gasping for air, lying on its side, with an obvious flesh wound. It was brought to shore, and clearly this was not an Atlantic salmon.
It was instead a Pink Salmon, a species native to the Pacific Ocean. This year Pink Salmon have been in the news, as considerable numbers of them have been spotted off Great Britain's coast, as well as in Scottish, English, and Irish rivers.
Pink Salmon on the banks of the Gander River. It likely arrived from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Norway. Photo Tim Sharpe
Beginning in the 1960s, Russian scientists started to introduce the fast-growing species to the White Sea, east of the Kola Peninsula. The Pink Salmon did not "take" as one might say. But in the mid-1980s Russian fisheries biologists used fish from a stream near Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk, and unfortunately these Pink Salmon did well.
They expanded their range not just in the White Sea but westwards into the rivers of northern Norway, and the numbers expanded. Concerns began emerging, and as the incidence of pink salmon in Europe increased. In recent years they have exploded, drifting further into the Atlantic, and entering rivers far from the White Sea. Pinks spawn much earlier than Atlantic salmon and a video was made this July of two of these fish mating in the River Ness, Scotland.
It may be rare, but it is not a welcome sight. Atlantic salmon have many stresses - from marine food supply to Striped Bass, and do not need the additional competition with Pink Salmon. Photo Tim Sharpe
Tim Sharpe is a strong believer in the importance of Atlantic salmon to all of us, and took the fish seriously. It was bagged up and into the camp freezer, with its destination being DFO labs in St. John's.
Will we see more on the island of Newfoundland? We have one other report from Cartwright, Labrador, but it's impossible to determine how wide spread or persistent this invasion will become. In the British Isles concern is high and people are asked to keep and kill any pinks they catch. New studies are underway to determine the risk they pose to native species like Atlantic salmon.
This year DFO is keeping a few of the counting facilities open through September, just to be certain some late run of fish is not materializing.
Fred Parsons, at ERMA on the Exploits River, noted on Thursday:
We are only seeing a few Atlantic salmon coming up the fishway. One or two, and some days none. Certainly there is no September run materializing.
There are just a few anglers around on the river - not many.
The DFO Count is available for Sept. 17.
One needs to look back over several years to get a better picture of the results.
For example, the Exploits this year is showing 15,530 grilse and large salmon to Sept. 17, 2017. In other years the count ended in early September. In 2014 there were 29,293 returning - essentially double the present year's count. In 2011 there were 41,415. Concerns for survival at sea are paramount here.
Forks Pool, where Bottom Brook (left) flows into Southwest Brook. Western Newfoundland, late August, 2014. Photo Don Ivany/ASF
A Labrador Atlantic salmon in the Flowers River. Spending "down time" on the way upstream. Photo Mauro Mazzo
There are somewhat conflicting reports on the angling success this year overall in Labrador. But below are the four assessed rivers. The latter two have not changed since early Sept. but there are a few fish added to the English River and the Big Sandy.
ASF's President Bill Taylor releases a beautiful Atlantic salmon on the Flowers River in Sept. 2016. Photo Mauro Mazzo
Lower Tompkins Pool on lower part of Margaree River on Thurs., Sept. 21, 2017. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
Greg Lovely notes:
The Margaree area got some rain last weekend and as a result for a few days fish were being hooked up and down the river. The water levels have dropped but are still a good level for fishing. Friends joined me the last few days for some fun on the river and we all hooked fish.
Lewis Hinks, ASF Director for Programs in Nova Scotia and PEI noted on Sept. 21, that the water was low, but not too low for angling. Check out his photos taken yesterday on the lower part of the Margaree.
Tidal Pool on Margaree, taken Thurs., Sept. 21, 2017. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
The DFO count numbers for Sept. 15 are now posted. Certainly the results for the LaHave are better than last year, but far below numbers seen a couple of decades ago.
Interesting that these two rivers are bucking the trend of low grilse returns this year.
The Sept. 15 numbers are now available for several rivers.
St. John River
Perhaps the situation is somewhat better than the dire numbers of 2014, but show poorly when compared to even the low numbers of 2011. The St. John River needs all the help it can get.
To Sept. 15, 2017 there have been 49 grilse and 32 large salmon counted, compared with 292 grilse and 43 large salmon in 2016. The grilse are definitely missing!
What are we to make of numbers to this point on the Miramichi? It has been a dry summer which has made salmon numbers lower. At the same time, we have seen more large salmon than were expected, given the low grilse year in 2016. The greater number of large salmon will most definitely help the egg deposition numbers.
We can be optimistic. The Miramichi can vary year to year in terms of the proportion of fish coming in on the “early run” versus the “fall run”. It is possible that 2017 will have higher fall numbers. We don't know yet. Catching the tail end of a hurricane could help the salmon numbers.
ASF's staff notes that grilse counts are way down on both systems. There is an 83 percent reduction on Dungarvon, and an 82 percent reduction on the NW Miramichi compared to 2011. Roughly on par with 2014.
For our normal comparison with the past year, here is the chart:
It appears that the fishing was poor through the season this year, and at least one camp noted that the salmon caught and released between June 18 and Aug. 18 included only 48, of which 45 were grilse. The river was very low, making matters difficult not only for the Atlantic salmon, but also for anglers trying to access camps upstream.
To Sept. 17 the count is 112 grilse and 40 large salmon, well below the 2016 numbers to the same date of 136 grilse and 184 large salmon.
With 10 days left in the 2017 season and no appreciable precipitation in the forecast and very low water conditions for salmon country, what we see is what we’ll get until Sept. 30.
Kevin Gauthier looking over the Assemetquagan Pool on the Matapedia River. The river remains very low. - photo Brian Walker
Angling seasons on many rivers have closed as of Sept. 15, resulting in a mixed bag of results.
It is heartening to see a few more Atlantic salmon making their way up the Penobscot. Including salmon at both Milford and Orono, there have now been 309 grilse and 531 large Atlantic salmon.
This makes 2017 the best year of Atlantic salmon returns since 2011. There is reason for optimism!