Loading





id = "FBMainForm_29925244" action="/research-in-the-field.html" method = "post" onsubmit = "return false" >
Research - In the Field Search  

« Previous 1 of 11 Next »
 
The Smolt Bolt.
by Graham on 

After a few long days on the road and on the rivers, most of the 2016 smolt tags are out. Where we usually tag 80 smolt on each of the Northwest Miramichi, the Main Southwest Miramichi, the Restigouche, and 40 on the Grand Cascapedia, this year was a bit different. To further our knowledge of tagged smolt behaviour with the goal of increasing the accuracy of our survival estimates, we varied our tagging regime and added a few twists. Working in conjunction with the Miramichi Salmon Association, pre-smolt were caught in the fall and kept over-winter at the hatchery. Thirty for each river were tagged mid-winter and 30 were tagged this week just prior to release. We also tagged 60 wild smolt from the rotating screw traps on each branch. Half of the spring-caught smolts were released during the day and half after dark. Additionally, all groups of tagged smolts were tagged with two kinds of sutures for comparison. The smolt are held for a time to monitor recovery after tagging and then released to the river, where they continue on their journey to the sea.

Earlier in the week, ASF and MSA staff met at Rocky Brook Camp on the Main Southwest Miramichi. We spent an entire day tagging and releasing fish. As they are every year, Wayne, Jerry and Blake from Rocky Brook were more than accommodating with their time, help and food. They are involved in their own assessments of juveniles every year and the two projects are very complimentary.

After Rocky Brook, we headed up the the Northwest to begin tagging there. MSA and ASF staff, who work together often, got all of the tagging and releases done up at Miner's Bridge. The day was mostly sunny and warm and everything went (mostly) smoothly.

Soon the Restigouche River smolt will be tagged followed by those on the Grand Cascapedia. In mid-June the receiver line in the Strait of Belle Isle will be put out in time for both smolt and kelt to pass in early July. Interestingly, all of our tagged smolt and kelt, from the four rivers, all pass the Strait usually within a week of each other. Good timing.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.


Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Retention Tension.
by Graham on 

 

After months of preparation, the Tag Retention work is finally complete. ASF's Jason Daniels headed up this project and has been checking in to every last detail in preparation for two big days of tagging fish. The project was a collaborative effort between ASF, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from the Maine office. The purpose of the experiment is to build upon our knowledge from previous efforts to examine how well smolts of different sizes retain acoustic tags of the type we, and others, use in telemetry studies. This will allow us to compensate for any tag loss in our survival estimates of smolts moving seaward and as far afield as Newfoundland and Labrador.

 The entire tag retention crew. People from ASF, DFO, NOAA and McGill University all smiling at the end of day two.

It was a big effort, with 500 fish tagged with four different sizes of acoustic tags (all supplied by VEMCO out of Nova Scotia) and two different types of sutures used in the surgery. We had four tagging stations operating at once and fish moving every which way, all needing to be observed and cared for at every step. In addition to people from the organizations mentioned above, we also have two interns from McGill University working with us out for 5 weeks and they were a big help. The first morning was a bit slow, and we took our time getting our timing patterns down but by the first afternoon we were flying along at a good clip.

 

The fish will be checked twice a day for tag loss over the next four months, which is a bit longer than the tag batteries last. At the end of that period the analysis will begin. That information will help in our real-life tagging and tracking studies on smolts in the Miramichi, Restigouche and Cascapedia Rivers. It will also be beneficial information for anyone tagging and tracking Atlantic salmon anywhere else using these or similar tags.

 

Soon enough we'll be tagging wild smolts and will have traded a wet lab for the (hopefully) sunny riverbanks in northern New Brunswick and the Gaspe peninsula.

 

A big thanks to everyone involved in planning and executing this project, we couldn't have done it without you.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Low Water, Big Salmon and High Offices
by Graham on 

There has been a lot going on in the ASF Research Department recently. We've said goodbye to one staff (see previous entry) and hello to a new one, deployments and tagging have begun and another project is about to start.

 

ASF was happy to welcome Heather Dixon to our team two weeks ago. Hailing from England, she is coming to us from the University of Waterloo where she is just finishing a PhD investigating marine feeding in Atlantic salmon. She'll be an excellent addition to our team and her previous research fits in nicely with areas in which we have interest. Fitting that some of her first days of work were at Red Bank helping to tag kelts that will soon be feeding in the marine environment.

 

Thanks to volunteer anglers on both the Restigouche and Northwest Miramichi rivers, we tagged 51 kelts over three days on the rivers. We began at Red Bank where anglers braved cool temperatures and cold winds to bring us all the kelts we needed. All were multi-year salmon and a few more males than usual, they ranged from 74.8cm to 96.7cm. The heaviest, caught by our own Nathan Wilbur, weighed 6.4kg. On the second day of tagging, we had a visit from Senator Percy Mockler who showed a keen interest in the salmon, the anglers and our work. He even assisted in tagging a 82.9cm, 3.4kg male kelt. Thanks to the anglers and volunteers from community and local camps, the exercise was basically seamless.

 

The Restigouche River tagging happened a few days later and went just as well. Amazingly, we tagged all 25 kelts in just one day. The fish were even bigger there (sorry Nathan) and we had no problems getting our numbers thanks to the dozen or so anglers who fished from shore and boats. In a change from the last four years, we used Restigouche fish for our satellite tags this year. Ten big kelts were outfitted with these tags this year, it will be very interesting to see how their behaviours and migration patterns compare to those from the Miramichi.

 

Tagging on both rivers required a big effort but people, camps and communities came together to allow this important work to happen. The salmon are incredibly important to both rivers and the people who live and visit the areas so it is great to see how easily people jump to help out. We couldn't do it without them and appreciate the continuing effort of everyone involved.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

 

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (surgery)
by Graham on 

Steve Tinker at his retirement lunch.This week we said goodbye and good luck to Steve Tinker. Steve has been a biologist with the Atlantic Salmon Federation for 17 years. Prior to helping the effort to restore wild salmon populations, he worked with wild birds of prey and several other interesting jobs right across the country.

 

Steve was involved in all kinds of different projects while working at ASF. He has been a part of the tracking projects since the beginning and has tagged countless numbers of smolts over the years. Much of our tracking data comes from fish he performed the surgery upon. He also worked on stream surveys and electrofishing crews, gear deployments, survey cruises in the Bay of Fundy and more local watershed surveys here in Charlotte County.

 

With his knowledge of all things in the natural world, Steve was always a good person to travel the back country with during fieldwork. No birds escaped his notice or identification, even from far across a field, and the variety of plants and animals in New Brunswick were all familiar territory for him. Staff working along side him never failed to learn something new on those trips. We sent him off to retirement with a beautiful fly rod so he has can enjoy fishing without having to worry about weighing, measuring, scale or tissue sampling and tagging every fish he sees.

 

All the best Steve, enjoy yourself and good luck with the fishing!

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Winter Warmer
by Graham on 
Watching fish at the Miramichi Salmon Association.

Monday of this week found us enjoying the hospitality of the Miramichi Salmon Association. We'd driven up through snow and sleet to tag some fish on a joint project that is looking at tag retention and behaviour of juveniles tagged at different times. Typically, we tag smolt caught in the rotating screw traps in the spring. We'll do that again this year, but in addition, some juveniles were caught in the fall and brought to the hatchery. They came from both main branches of the river. They've spent the winter in at the MSA and will be released when they smolt in the spring.  Everything went very smoothly and as much as I enjoy working outside, it sure was nice not to have to deal with the wind blowing everything away for a change. More reports on these fish will follow in the spring and as data comes in over the summer.

 

Last week I'd used a 3D printer at the Saint John Free Public Library at Market Square to make a harness for satellite tagged kelts. The first prototype came out pretty well, though it needs a few tweaks before I can call it the final design. The harness came out well enough, but the biggest issue was the typeface I'd attempted to raise from the surface. In the past, we've attached a small plastic tag lying flat on the harness to identify the fish once the satellite tag has come off. If someone caught or found the fish, they'd see the information and be able to contact us, thus giving one more solid data point as well as a possible fate of the fish. With the 3D printer, I thought I could have all the information in raised letters as part of the tag itself, but it is proving problematic. I'm not giving up yet, each harness costs only a couple of cents to produce in this manner so I think I can try a few more times to get it right.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

We CAD Do It.
by Graham on 

During the design process for the satellite tag harnesses.Suddenly it is March. It seems to have arrived especially early this year, although we often say that in the Research Department. While field season is still a ways away, things are heating up. Plans are being made and schedules drawn up. The plans will change and the rivers and fish never agree to the schedules, but we make them anyway.

 

Between reports and proposals, we're ordering and sorting gear. One item of interest this week is for the satellite tagged fish for 2016. Not the tags themselves, they are being built and will arrive in plenty of time. Rather, the harnesses we use to attach them to the fish. They consist of a plastic brace on either side of the fish, just below the dorsal fin, that sits on a soft bed of silicone.

 

 

Over the past four years, Audun Rikardsen of Norway has made them by hand for his own research and also supplied the ASF with harnesses. This year we're doing it in house. Using his build as a guide, I've designed something very similar using CAD software (as seen in the photos). ASF doesn't have a 3D printer, but fortunately the Saint John Free Public Library at Market Square does (http://saintjohnlibrary.com/main.html)! Once the prototype is done, I'll check it for design errors before printing enough for our 2016 needs. It is really neat technology and having it available locally is a big advantage when you need very specific items that are not otherwise available.

 

Besides the satellite tag harnesses, I'm gearing up for some tagging next week at the Miramichi Salmon Association. We'll be tagging some juveniles and then holding them in the hatchery until spring for release as smolts. They'll go out at the same time as wild smolts are travelling downstream, some of which will be tagged as part of our yearly smolt tagging program.

 

More on the 3D printing results and smolt tagging next week.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

What's for Lunch?
by Graham on 

Shawna releasing tagged smolts at Rocky Brook.

 

After three years of working at the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Shawna Wallace has moved on. She has been an integral part of the Research Team in that time, in both the field and at home base. Shawna really kept the ship together and moving forward, being able to keep track and plan for the whole team who were often all over the Maritimes or further afield.

 

 

She also had the prized skill of being able to advise us, whatever city or town we were in, as to where to eat. When you spend a lot of days on the road, where to eat is a matter of great significance that should never be overlooked. After all, breakfast can really make or break your entire day. Everything from roadside stands to fine dining establishments have benefitted from being awarded her thumbs up.

 

 

We wish her the best in her new location and job. We'll still be texting to find out where to eat lunch.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

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.


 

 

 

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

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.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

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.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

« Previous 1 of 11 Next »
 
RSS Feed