No wild Atlantic salmon returned to Magaguadavic River


CBC News - NB

No wild Atlantic salmon returned to Magaguadavic River to spawn, conservation group says

Atlantic Salmon Federation says it's a troubling first since it began monitoring in 1992, blames aquaculture

CBC News Posted: Oct 05, 2017 1:41 PM AT

Aquaculture escapees from the Magaguadavic fishway collected Sept. 13, 2017. Photo Tom Moffatt/ASf

A conservation organization says no wild Atlantic salmon returned to the Magaguadavic River to spawn this year for the first time in 25 years and salmon farming along the Bay of Fundy is at least partly to blame.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation says the loss of wild salmon in the Megaguadavic is "another blow" to the outer Bay of Fundy population, which, despite a stocking program over many years, is considered endangered by an expert panel.

"The Magaguadavic should be a cautionary tale," federation president Bill Taylor said in a statement Thursday. "Throughout North America no new open net-pen salmon aquaculture sites should be allowed in proximity to wild salmon rivers."

Although Atlantic salmon populations are affected globally by changing ocean conditions and overfishing, the salmon federation contends open net-pen salmon aquaculture in the bay and escaped farmed salmon breeding with wild salmon are also contributing to declining numbers.

The Magaguadavic was first "exposed" to this "threat" in the 1980s. In 1983, Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimated 900 wild salmon entered the river to spawn, the federation said.

Today, the area has one of the highest concentrations of industrial salmon farms in the world, according to the statement.

Interbred fish 'less fit for survival'

Every year since 1994 except 2006 and 2011 more aquaculture escapees than wild fish have been counted at the Magaguadavic fishway, the group said.

And this year is no exception, with 15 escapes being removed from the trap at the top of the fishway, including one earlier this week.

"Studies have proven that escaped aquaculture fish have interbred with wild salmon in the Magaguadavic and throughout the Bay of Fundy resulting in a loss of local adaptation," the statement said.

"It is widely acknowledged that aquaculture-wild hybrids are less fit for survival and the presence of escapes and hybrids among wild populations is associated with major declines."