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Double Down
by Graham on 

Stunning scenery on northern Newfoundland.While doubling down on the tables in Vegas may or may not pay out, doubling down in fish tracking is always beneficial. Readers will be familiar with the ASF's tracking efforts over the years; small transmitters are placed in the body cavity of salmon smolts and kelts and equipment strategically placed along their migration routes records the date and time the individual tags move by. It is a reliable and widespread method used to track many fish species. The equipment might be used on long migrations, such as those of salmon, or short-distance and precise movements around a coral reef in the tropics. The environment isn't always friendly to our efforts though and sometimes a fish can sneak by a receiver or set of receivers and not be recorded.


The aquatic environment isn't nearly as quiet as we often think, and moving water can be noisy. Tides, currents, wind, waves and boat traffic all create an acoustic environment that might interfere with the reception of the receivers. Equipment placement and rigging can help, but in some cases it doesn't completely solve the problem. Best case scenario a tagged fish hits on every receiver it passes, and many do. However a fish may 'skip' one receiver and hit on one further along. In that case, we know it passed the missed receiver simply by the fact that it was recorded further along. But what about fish that skip the last receiver on the route? In our case, that is the Strait of Belle Isle, if a fish passes but is not recorded on those receivers, we might be led to think it was lost in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when in fact it is in the North Atlantic. In order to counter that potential, in 2015 we installed a second line of receivers in the Strait of Belle Isle about 4km from the original. This line, or 'gate', will help us calibrate the original gate and we may end up adjusting our survival estimates based on what we learn.

 

This expansion of our tracking abilities was made possible by generous funding from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation. Ours is only one of a number of excellent projects funded by the ASCF. For more information about other projects or how to apply for funding if your group has a project proposal, please visit http://salmonconservation.ca.


Now if we could only place receivers all the way to Greenland...

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.


 

 

 

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Milt, It Does A Body Good.
by Graham on 

Jason and Shawna stripping eggs from a female salmon.It is that time of year again, the snow starts to fall and ASF Research Staff head up to the Thomaston Corner Hatchery to spawn the fish in the Magaguadavic Recovery Program. While the fish came on to spawn a bit late this year, the day was busy and we ended up with 50 litres of eggs. The eggs are laid down in trays with upwelling water and will be cared for day to day by the Cooke Aquaculture staff at the hatchery. There are still about 50 females left to spawn in that group and we'll be back up there Monday to go through them again. Typically, offspring from the spawnings have been released the following spring as unfed fry or in some cases later on as fall parr. Plans may be changing though, the Magaguadavic River Salmon Recovery Group is discussing new ideas to better help the Magaguadavic River salmon population. More to come as spawnings and plans continue...

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Restigouche Results
by Graham on 

A Restigouche River salmon kelt on the measuring board before being tagged. Photo by Carole-Anne Gillis,Since 2013, the Atlantic Salmon Federation has been tagging salmon kelts on the Restigouche River each spring. The acoustic tags emit a unique signal that is recorded by receivers strategically placed on their migration route. We have monitoring equipment in place in-river, near Campbellton, Dalhousie and 2/3 of the way out Chaleur Bay. Consecutive spawning fish will spend time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence before heading back up river but alternate-year spawning fish will head to the North Atlantic. Those fish are recorded passing through the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

In 2015, we tagged 25 kelts near the Rafting Grounds with the help of anglers and the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council. One of those 25 fish is a confirmed consecutive spawner, being recorded moving out of the river and back in again a month later. Thirteen others were recorded leaving the Gulf through the Strait of Belle Isle; we hope to see them coming back next year. This year we also recorded two fish tagged in 2014 coming back as alternate year spawners, six from 2013 came back in 2014. Our records show that one fish tagged in 2014, spawned in 2013, in 2014 and again returned to spawn in 2015. Also of interest this year was the first kelt, from the Restigouche or Miramichi, that we recorded returning from the North Atlantic through the Strait of Belle Isle. We have past records from the Ocean Tracking Network showing our fish returning to the Gulf through the Cabot Strait, but previous to this year, none coming back through the Strait of Belle Isle. Seasonal conditions there prevent us from having gear out for very long, so they may be crossing earlier than our equipment is in, but this is noteworthy that the fish use both entrances to the Gulf.

 

While ASF staff put a lot of effort into this part of our tracking project we are not going it alone. The anglers who catch the fish to tag deserve a big thank you. Thanks as well to the Restigouche River Management Council and the Gespe'gewaq Mi'gmaq Resource Council help with deploying, downloading and recovering gear. It's a big job and it's great to have friends in the area to help us out.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Sharing Herring
by Graham on 

As we enter the fall season and most of our field work is behind us, desk season begins. While we love getting out and about through the Maritimes, we've gathered a lot of information that needs compiling and reports that need writing.

 

This week, I've been looking at the data from our alewife tracking efforts in 2015 on the St. Croix River.  Why is the Atlantic Salmon Federation investigating alewife movements? The river once supported a salmon population, and though wild salmon haven't been seen in it for many years, the river is far from forgotten. It is an important and well-used waterway that forms part of the border between New Brunswick and Maine with people on both sides of the border concerned about its health. Dams on the river acted as barriers to fish migration for many years but since 2013, fish passage is available. Alewife also migrate from  the sea up rivers to spawn, as salmon do. And their returns have been monitored for many years. We've been tracking a few of them to observe if and how they are re-colonizing habitat that was inaccessible for many years.

 

This year, we tagged 29 river herring at the Milltown Dam and released them back to the river. Many of the fish ascended as far as the base of the Woodland Dam before heading back to the sea. Eight of the 29 fish ascended the passage at the dam and moved upstream. All but one of those remained in the next 12km of river, while the last tagged alewife kept going. It ascended a third dam and entered the Grand Falls Flowage. The highest point where it was detected was 41km from the dam at Milltown. It did head downstream again, but was lost above the Grand Falls Dam.

 

All but five of the tagged fish were recorded leaving the system, suggesting high post-spawn survival and success in downstream movements. They were recorded leaving the river and entering Passamaquoddy Bay by receivers placed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Passamaquoddy Tribe kindly shared data from receivers they had placed at exits to the Bay and we found that 23 of our tagged fish made it tot he Bay of Fundy.

 

This collaborative project was much bigger in scope thanks to the operations of three different groups of researchers sharing their data. Our efforts over the past two years were supported by the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund (www.NBWTF.ca) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (www.fws.gov). Their webistes provide more information on other important projects they are undertaking or supporting.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

 

 

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Not Your Typical Logger
by Graham on 

A temperature Logger recovered from the New River in Charlotte County.As the temperature begins to dip and the autumn rains come in force, we are out and about in southwest New Brunswick getting ready for fall and early winter activities. The Magaguadavic River fishway at the head-of-tide dam in St. George will continue to be monitored until early December. The river level there is subject to fast changes at this time of year with rain events coming fast and hard at times. Since the huge rain event a few weeks ago and subsequent high flows out of the river, we have seen an influx of fish that were likely washed below the dams in the deluge. Lots of white sucker and landlocked salmon have been making their way back up to fresh water though unfortunately we haven't seen any more wild salmon return t the river in a while. The total for the year stands at nine to this point.

 

Elsewhere in the area, we are collecting our temperature logging equipment from rivers and streams. We place them in the early spring and have been doing so for many years. We also place temperature loggers along with our tracking receivers on many of the lines in the northern end of the province. The data collected will provide insight into stream and river temperature profiles and will illustrate any changes that may have occured over the years.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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AIW7: Day 1 Update
by Graham on 

Greetings from the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia where Jon Carr and I are attending the 7th instalment of the Aquaculture Innovation Workshop series. The workshop is hosted by The Conservation Fund's Freshwater Institute (TCFFI), Tides Canada, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and ASF. This two-day international summit on fish farming in land-based closed-containment systems will include all aspects of production from project technologies and marketing to lessons learned while engineering recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).


So far on day one, we have learned the value of land-based aquaculture: consumers are expecting more from their food and are willing to pay a premium for food that aligns with their values. The KUTERRA land-based salmon "Best Choice" rating under Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Assessment and SeaChoice helps to meet the growing interest in "green seafood."  

Jim Lawley, ASF Director, updates the audience on Sustainable Blue salmon.
ASF Director Jim Lawley stepped up to the podium to deliver an update on Sustainable Blue's Land-based Atlantic Salmon RAS Project in Centre Burlington, Nova Scotia in place of President, Jeremy Lee. Sustainable Blue is located on the Bay of Fundy in Centre Burlington, Nova Scotia and their product is available for purchase online and locally in Halifax, NS.

I look forward to hearing more project updates tomorrow! You can find some presentations already posted here: http://www.conservationfund.org/resources/courses-and-events/982-aquaculture-innovation-workshop
Keep up to date on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/SalmonNews

Shawna Wallace, ASF Research

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Joaquin Away
by Graham on 

The St. George fishway under heavy flow conditions.As mentioned in last week's blog, we managed to get all of our electrofishing surveys done just under the wire. That wire came in the form of heavy rains last week. Near-record amounts fell in many areas of the Maritimes and around southwestern New Brunswick we received in the range of 100mm to 160mm. All of that rain has to go somewhere and the streams and rivers are it. The Magaguadavic River is the main collector in these parts, along with the St. Croix, and in preparation for the massive inflow, the staff at the St. George dam did their best to draw down the river ahead of time. This was done so that when it filled up again from the rains, it wouldn't cause flooding and property damage.

 

Their plan worked, but it still filled up, and fast. The level went up several feet and looked completely different between morning and afternoon visits. Huge amounts of water flowed through the gates of the retention dam and also through the tainter gate at the main dam, used only when they really need to let water go. So high was the flow below the dam that nine pools of the fishway ladder were completely submerged, this can be seen in the photo at right. I visited the fishway everyday over the last week to clean out the muck, leaves and debris that was washed downstream and into the fishway. Luckily everything seems to have survived the high flows.

 

While this may seem like old news now, the rains were a week ago after all, there is a point to this subject being blogged about today. For many people, the rains were forgotten a few days later, but the effects go on. Only today was the flow coming out of the Magaguadavic River low enough to uncover the bottom nine pools of the fish ladder. The river level is still high, though the flows are lower than they were. Major rains like those of last week affect our rivers and fish habitat long after our own travel and services have returned to normal. We, and the river, are lucky that Hurricane Joaquin decided to angle east and spared us any more.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Survey Says
by Graham on 


The ASF Research Department has been conducting surveys of juvenile salmon on southwest New Brunswick rivers since 1998. These surveys, using electrofishing techniques, provide a glimpse into the status of stocks in these rivers. Since the entire river cannot be sampled, selected sites are sampled and compared year after year. We head out in teams of three or four and electrofish the river and note how many salmon of each year class are found. A sub-sample of juvenile salmon are scale sampled and the scales used for ageing purposes. They are also weighed and measured. Additionally we also note the number and type of other species we catch. Typically, we also catch blacknose dace, smallmouth bass, American eel and slimy sculpin in the same sites as salmon. It is encouraging to find that wild salmon are still spawning in these rivers, even if we’d like to see higher numbers.


 

Jason and Shawna on the Pocologan RIver.Electrofishing surveys take a lot of effort to complete, and are only feasible based on the whims of nature. This year, we had to wait for stream temperatures to drop enough to decrease stress on the fish. Water levels are also an issue, when they are too high, we cannot fish the sites efficiently, or in some cases safely. We just managed to get all 19 sites in this year before the rains began. With up to 150mm expected in this area, we won’t get another chance to fish.


 

A wild salmon parr in a southwest New Brunswick river.Our surveys are also only feasible thanks to people and organizations that either support us financially or allow us access across property. The New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund has been sponsoring this project for several years, allowing the ASF Research Department to compile a long time-series of data on otherwise un-monitored rivers and streams. For more information on the many projects the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund supports, please visit their website at http://www.nbwtf.ca/ .

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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The Waters Will Recede
by Graham on 

The gauge on the St. George Dam on the Magaguadavic RIver.For the ASF Research Team, this week has been one of those frustrating times when circumstances beyond our control are preventing us from getting things done. Every year, we monitor the salmon populations at various sites in south west New Brunswick. We do this using electrofishing surveys, a method commonly used throughout North America for this kind of work. The electrofishers we use are backpack units that can be used in the small streams we are sometimes dealing with. The user has an anode on a pole and trails a cathode ‘tail’ in the water. It sets up an electrical field around the fisher that allows the capture of salmon and other fish by other crew members with dip-nets or small seines. It sounds more dangerous than it is, there a lot of safety features built in to the unit to protect the crew and the units are set specifically for the fish and water characteristics to avoid hurting any aquatic life.


We’ve been geared up and set to go for a while now, but nature isn’t cooperating at the moment. In the past couple of weeks, the water temperature has been too high at our sites to proceed. The ASF, and other organizations, do not use electrofishers at high water temperatures in order to minimize stress on the fish. SO with the hot weather that we’d had around here we weren’t able to get out. The water temperatures were too high, even at first light in the smaller streams.


And then the rain came. A couple of days with a lot of rain have dropped the temperatures but raised the water levels. The streams aren’t so high as to be dangerous for the crew, but high enough that we’d be less effective and the exercise wouldn’t be worth it. Now the levels are dropping and the temperatures are crawling back up. Here’s hoping there will be that perfect window of opportunity somewhere in the middle.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Comings and Goings
by Graham on 

A Google Earth view of the latest ASF satellite tag to transmit, near NAchvak Fjord Labrador.This week finds the ASF Research Department staff  working on a variety of projects. Steve is going through the tracking data for the smolts on the Miramichi River. Preliminary results suggest a bit better survival to the estuary than last year. Jason is hard at work analysing the results and progression of the tag retention study. It is coming to a close and the information gleaned will help us in our modelling of survival estimates for smolts through the rivers and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

 

Mike Best is out and about in southwest New Brunswick checking temperatures and site conditions for our electrofishing surveys, which will begin as soon as conditions permit. We don’t electro-fish when water temperatures are too high to minimize any stress on the fish. Shawna has been monitoring the Magaguadavic fishway where six aquaculture escapees have attempted to access the river in the past two days. That means that nine escapees have arrived at the fishway compared to eight wild salmon. And I have just returned from vacation and am trying to wade back in to work and get caught up from time away.


 

In other news, the sixth satellite pop-up tag of the year began to transmit this morning. This one is from a 70cm, 2.4kg female kelt tagged on May 4th at Red Bank on the Miramichi. This tag was programmed to release on August 31st so we know that this fish was alive and well at that time. The transmissions are coming from just off the Labrador coast, way up north near the Nachvak Fjord. We look forward to accessing all the data that this tag will provide in the coming weeks and add it to our database of kelt movements.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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