Chéticamp River salmon making a comeback


Chéticamp River salmon making a comeback thanks to "rock bars"

Three-year project to create better environment for Atlantic salmon paying dividends

By Hal Higgins, CBC News Posted: Oct 04, 2016 1:29 PM AT

Salmon are once again able to navigate their way to spawning grounds in the Chéticamp River in Inverness County, N.S., as a result of a three-year project to restore sections of the river, according to a local conservation group.

"The salmon seem to be reaching the upper part of the river more quickly," said Rene Aucoin, president of the Cheticamp River Salmon Association.

Decades of riverbank erosion, which caused a significant widening of the watercourse, had led to such low water levels that fish, some as big as nine kilograms, were effectively prevented from making their way to the spawning grounds.

By 2012, the salmon population had dwindled to such a point that the river had to be closed to fishing, Aucoin said.

The restoration project, which was funded mainly by Parks Canada, aimed to "narrow" the river and raise the water level by strategically placing rocks and forming reefs that Aucoin calls "rock bars."

The work was supervised by experts, he said, who "pinpointed exactly the locations where these rock bars should be placed."

"It pushes the water towards the centre of the river and, eventually, that digs out the channel," he said. "Deeper water would allow the fish to move upstream."

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One thing he has observed is the work has resulted in the creation of a number of pools in the lower end of the river that weren't there before.

"That was part of the problem," he said. "Low water, no resting areas for the fish; they were subject to predation. These bars have created deeper areas where salmon can rest."

'Significant change'

Aucoin said "we've seen a significant change in the river already in the past three years," adding that within one generation of salmon, which is five years, there will be a noticeable increase in the population.

Many partners joined with Parks Canada in the project, which cost around $450,000, he said.  Fisheries and Oceans Canada, NSLC Adopt a Stream, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Nova Scotia Power, Sage Environmental Programs and the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation along with the local salmon association were involved, said Aucoin.

He added that his group will keeping a keen eye on things, especially in June of each year when the salmon make their annual run up the Chéticamp River.

"We'll be doing monitoring for the next several years," said Aucoin.