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ASF Research Update, April 1, 2014.
by Graham on 

Michelle, Alex and Steve practicing tagging methods.It was a busy time last week in the Research Department. Our new Biologist started on Monday. Michelle Charest is just finishing her M.Sc. at UNB and the Canadian Rivers Institute. She comes from the Restigouche area and is an avid paddler. Welcome Michelle, we're glad to have you on our team.

 

Also last week, the Research crew was joined by Alex Parker, a biologist from the Miramichi Salmon Association, to practice and refine some acoustic tagging techniques. It was a new skill for both Michelle and Alex, but they took to it like fish to water.

 

Two days last week were spent hosting a small workshop with staff from VEMCO. It is the acoustic telemetry company from Dartmouth that produces the tags and receivers we use to track salmon in New Brunswick and as far as Newfoundland. We were joined by other researchers from P.E.I. and Maine to see new products and get the most out of the equipment and software they produce. It was a great learning experience, the VEMCO staff are experts in the field of acoustic telemetry and were happy to share their knowledge.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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ASF Research Update, February 27, 2013.
by Graham on 

It may be the coldest days of winter, but things are heating up here in the Research Department. While we are still wading through the thousands of lines of data from 2013 in some cases, we are also beginning to gear up for 2014.

 

Spring is a ways off, but with our extensive operations, it takes time to plan, so we are getting into the thick of it. We'll go over last year's activities and decide if we need to make any adjustments to our deployment plans. The equipment is cleaned and stored, but we'll make sure that it will meet our needs for the upcoming season.  Tags and other supplies are being ordered to arrive with lots of time before April. Field season isn't here yet, but within a couple of months, we'll step out from behind our desks and get on the water once again.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Planting Season
by Graham on 

Yesterday, Steve Tinker and I took a trip down to the Pleasant River in Maine to observe and try a method of seeding rivers with eyed salmon eggs. We worked with a crew from the Downeast Salmon Federation and the Maine Department of Natural Resources.

 

While the idea of planting salmon eggs has been around a while, this is a very efficient method to get a lot of eggs in the stream. Metal cones are placed with the narrow end on the stream bed in suitable habitat. A water pump is used to jet water through the cone, alowing it to dig into the substrate up to an appropriate depth. Once the water pump is removed, eggs are placed in the cone and they sink down into the excavation. Careful extraction of the cone lets the gravel gently cover the eggs.

Underwater view of the excavation tube and water jet.

 

About 500 eggs are placed in each small excavation. Depending on the substrate, crews can visit a few sites a day and plant upwards of 100,000 eggs. This is a stocking method that results in fish that are totally wild-reared from hatch and there is less cost as they are not housed and fed while growing to a larger stage. We'll evaluate if this method is suitable for our efforts in the Maritimes.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Reserach.

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Taking Care of the Saint John River
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

Saint John River Basin in NB, ME & QC.Earlier this week, Geoff Giffin and I attended a meeting in Fredericton regarding the formation of a Saint John River Watershed Management Plan.

The day was hosted by the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, representing the six Maliseet First Nations in New Brunswick. The Saint John River does not currently have a Watershed Management Plan in the same way that the Restigouche and Miramichi rivers do.

There are many groups in the basin undertaking a lot of good work in both cultural and environmental fields, and this group is envisioned as a way for them all to keep in touch and apprised of each other's activities and to formulate plans for the entire watershed. In addition, it could also act as a voice for the river itself in regards to issues in the region.
 
Next week, the ASF Reserach crew will be on the Narraguagus River in northern Maine on field work with members from the state government's Marine Resources Department. They are undertaking an egg-planting project in three rivers in the area and we will be along to help and observe the process. Depending on results,

It might be a method we can bring back to the rivers we work on, such as the Magaguadavic, for future efforts.
 
Graham Chafe, ASF Research

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Lost and Found, January 21, 2014
by Graham on 

A receiver and acoustic release from Chaleur Bay that was found on P.E.I.During the 2013 season, we had deployed receivers every 800m across the Baie des Chaleurs. They were in place as part of our tracking program to monitor movement and survival of Restigouche River smolt and kelts.

 

Typically, we deploy most of our receivers by using an anchor and line up to a buoy on the surface. The receivers are attached approximately six meters below the buoy. In areas of high boat traffic we sometimes use devices called acoustic releases. These are ingenious bits of equipment that have the ability to receive and transmit signals through the water at depth. They are attached to very heavy, 60 to 80kg, anchors with the receiver and buoy attched to the upper end of a short line. That way both the receiver and the acoustic release are held about six meters off the bottom. There is nothing on the surface to interfere with or get caught in boat props or fishing equipment.

 

The receiver hangs there, happily recording any passing fish tags while the acoustic release simply waits to be woken up by an operator on the surface. Once it is, we send a unique signal and the receiver activates its release mechanism, letting go of the anchor. It floats to the surface and we collect it, the receiver and a mountain of data. Or that is what should happen anyway.

 

In 2013, this particular receiver did not respond to the digital queries by ASF staff who were collecting our gear. It turns out that that was because it wasn't there. For whatever reason, the line attaching the release to the anchor was sheared, perhaps it was caught up in parts of the anchor during deployment or bottom fishing equipment. It must have floated loose and gone for a trip. A helpful resident of Tignish P.E.I. was out for a walk last week and came upon it washed up on a beach. She called the number printed on the side and five months later and 180km away we have our gear back. So a big thanks to our P.E.I. friend who found and returned our equipment, it's a good start to 2014.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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It's Data Time of Year Again.
by Graham on 

Ice-laden trees hang low over the bridge to the ASF Interpretive Centre.After a bit of a holiday break, the Research Department is hard at work again. Field gear can take a beating and we use the winter season to repair and maintain it. The boats have been taken care of already, but every acoustic receiver, electro-fisher and all the other equipment will get a cleaning and a once-over and will then be ready for next year's deployment.

 

We have several projects on the go. Temperature data that has been collected over the last 15 years is being compiled, with this year's data added to it. The kelt and smolt tracking projects are priorities and each has thousands of data points to sort and analyse. Marine, a student from France working with us for a few months, is undertaking a study on downstream passage of smolts. Preliminary reports are out for the 2013 season, but now we'll get a little more in depth.

 

Winter seems like it will be long and cold, but with lots to keep us busy, it will be spring and time to head back out on the water once again.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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From Field Season to Desk Season, December 17, 2013.
by Graham on 

A sample of the un-refined track that comes from the satelie tags.Field season is now over. The last nine female broodstock in the Magaguadavic program were spawned late last week. All the eggs are safely tucked away in upwelling Heath trays for the winter. Hatchery staff and I will keep an eye on them over the winter and I look forward to reporting on their progress in the new year.

 

With that business done for the year, desk season has begun. All the ventures we've been involved with in the field since May have yielded a tremendous amount of data. Everything from tracking data to hourly temperature recordings add up to gigabytes of data. It all has to be sorted, backed up and analysed. So we'll spend the next few months going through what was gathered and adding to our knowledge of the Atlantic salmon's behaviour and habitat.

 

The satellite tags have given us a particularly large amount of information to analyse. The preliminary information from the transmissions give us an idea of the route that the individual kelt took, but it will take lots of effort to tease out more accurate and detailed tracks that will be of further use. I will report on findings as they happen over the next few months.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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ASF Reserach Update, December 10, 2013.
by Graham on 

Other than a few things, field season has pretty much wrapped up for the year. We will be at Thomaston Corners to check on the last few fish from the broodstock that haven't spawned yet. We want to make sure that if they are late-bloomers, they will have a chance to contribute to the program and there may be a few yet.

 

I'll stop in the hatchery a few times this winter to see how the eggs are doing and to check on the Multi-River Program fish. The fry will be released in the spring time and the Multi-River fish will be ready to spawn next fall. Next fall will be a very busy time with two groups of fish reaching spawning age at the same time.

 

The fishway on the Magaguadavic River is now closed for the year. We've bypassed the monitoring trap so any fish that do happen by will have free passage. We will start our activities there again in the spring.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Reserach.

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ASF Research Update, December 2, 2013.
by Graham on 

Racks of Heath trays used for incubating eggs.Last week was another spawning week for the Magaguadavic Program. We collected eggs and milt from 45 females and 45 males. The crosses were one to one, meaning an individual male's milt went with an individual female's eggs. Depending on availability of each sex, sometimes crosses are two to one or even higher. For this program, a random pattern is used, so that any male is crossed with any female, we don't make any choices. In some cases, depending on the end goals of the program, specific males and females are spawned together in order to preserve family genetic lines.

 

Next year, when our Multi-River Program for the Magaguadavic is ready to spawn, we will use a factorial pattern. In that case, we have donator stock from three different rivers, the Canaan, the Hammond and the Nashwaak. Using a factorial spawning plan, fish from each group will be spawned with every other group and amongst themselves. Once released, we will be able to monitor them, and using genetic analysis from survivors to the parr or smolt stage determine which stock, or combination of stocks, yielded the highest survival in the An individual Heath tray from the stack. They slide out for monitoring and for staff to remove any unfertilized or dead eggs.Magaguadavic system.

 

For now, those broodstock are still growing, and the eggs from the regular program are too. Heath trays are used for incubation. They provide an upwelling and low density environment that allows hatchery staff to easily monitor the health and progress of the eggs throughout the winter.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research

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ASF Research Update, November 15, 2013.
by Graham on 

Shawna rinsing eggs before they are laid down for incubation.This week there was another round of spawning for the Magaguadavic Program. Last week, about half of the 180 females were ready and yesterday half of the remainder were spawned.

 

The fertilized eggs from this spawning will hatch in the winter. The fry will be released next spring. We release them at the unfed fry stage, meaning that at the time of release they will still have about 10% of their yolk-sac left. This method is beneficial as the fry have an onboard food supply to use while they adjust to stream life. After that, they will grow from their first feeding by having to catch their own food. This allows them to develop their survival skills right from the beginning.

 

We'll be back at the facility one more time to complete the year's spawning and then bulk of the field work for 2013 will be completed.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

 

 

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