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Research - In the Field Search  

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Go Go Gadget Trawl
by Graham on 

In efforts to expand both our knowledge and reach in regards to migrating Atlantic salmon, we'll be headed up to the Strait of Belle Isle this summer for some interesting activities. We'll be investigating our ability to capture post-smolt as they move through the strait on their way to the North Atlantic. Any salmon captured will be have some measurements taken and samples of a few scales and a tiny bit of tissue. This will yield more knowledge about what conditions and changes these fish faced as they moved through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Additionally, knowing the size and weights of the fish allow us to plan for future technologies for potential tagging opportunities when they present themselves. Currently we can't track fish much past that point, but in the future it may well be an option and we'd like to be ready.



The trawl itself has a live box, adapted from some friendly researchers south of the border, that will move fish into a chamber out of the push of the water and be well-protected. Once the box is lifted aboard, the fish remain in the water for sorting and measurements. They will be released on their way after a short time on the vessel.

We recently went out for a test run on Passamaquoddy Bay on a boat and with some staff from the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, NB. Everything went very well, from deployment, through trawling and to recovery of the net. We couldn't have asked for much more in terms of performance from the net and live box. We're looking forward to seeing post-smolts in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Movie Night
by Graham on 

Over the past two weeks the Atlantic Salmon Federation various Nova Scotia and New Brunswick universities has been hosting screenings of the documentary "Lost at Sea". The film was directed by Dierdre Brennan who also organized a Kickstarter campaign to get the film made.



With footage and interviews from across the Atlantic salmon's range, the film takes viewers on a tour of habitats and issues concerning the species and its migration. Clips of interviews with salmon researchers interspersed with beautiful scenic shots keep the viewer tuned in throughout the film. Our own Jon Carr and Graham Chafe make an appearance in the film while examining scale samples from the Magaguadavic River in New Brunswick.

Three screenings have been held so far in the Maritimes, at Acadia, St. Francis Xavier and Mount Allison Universities. Great questions and discussions followed each screening highlighting people's interest in Atlantic salmon and  conservation issues. Next week, on the 15th of March, it will be shown at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The film begins at 7:30pm.

Here is a link to the Facebook page for the movie: https://www.facebook.com/atlanicsalmonlostatsea/


Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Farewell Clement.
by Graham on 

Ever year since 2012, ASF has hosted an intern from the Agrocampus Ouest near Rennes, France. From September to the end of January, a student lives in Saint Andrews and works with the ASF Research Department. This year, Clement Taron was our guest for five months. He was interested in fish in general and salmon specifically and so followed in the footsteps of Caroline, Marine and Alaia before him. He integrated well into our department and jumped right in to working with some of our data. He also enjoyed his time in Canada and traveled some within New Brunswick and Quebec. For some reason, all the interns from Agrocampus Ouest spend Christmas in New York City and Clement was no exception. Though the weather caused him a five day delay returning from New York, he was back at it in the beginning of January.



Clement was interested in the relationship between temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and post-smolt migration. He used our own temperature data, we always deploy a temperature logger on our receiver lines, as well as sea-surface temperature from satellite equipment that is available. It was an opportunity for him to develop skills in data analysis and writing and will contribute to the greater understanding of salmon movements.

We've already had contact from another student from the same institute who is interested in a placement with ASF for next year. After all, field season 2018 is fast approaching and September will be here before we know it.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Improving Passage
by Graham on 

With dams all over the province, NB Power is an important player for fish passage. While we all want and need our electricity, the sourcing of that power has large effects on the environment. Hydro power, often touted as renewable, has a particularly obvious effect on migratory fish populations. Its hard enough swimming upstream, but when a dam is in the way it changes things completely. Fish ladders, trap and truck and fish lifts all exist in New Brunswick and have varying degrees of success.



In an upcoming refit of the Milltown dam in St. Stephen, NB Power is planning to use newer technology for both upstream and downstream passage. The dam, the oldest continually running hydro plant in the country, will be outfitted with DIVE turbines from Germany that are apparently more fish friendly. However the real intent is for fish to use a new 'Hydroconnect' system. It is a double rotating hydropower screw in a large tube. It is kind of like two Archimedes screws, one inside the other and going in opposite directions to lift fish up or pass fish down.

While both the turbines and fish passage systems have been used in Europe, Milltown will be the first installations in North America. Good for NB Power for exploring the potential of new and emergent technology. It will take some tweaking and working with flows and timing  to figure it out, but if all goes well it will be an example for other dams in our area and beyond. If it doesn't work too well, the existing fish passage facilities will remain.

ASF staff and many others were at a stakeholder meeting yesterday, which was followed by one for the public in the evening. Several concerns were raised (will fish be able to find the Hydroconnect entrance amidst all the water in the tailrace for example) over the afternoon. I encourage anyone interested to attend other consultations and offer their input. Follow the links below for information on the turbines, the fish passage (the video is very helpful).

Turbines: http://www.dive-turbine.de/pages/en/start.php
Fish passage: http://www.hydroconnect.at/en/electricity-generating-fish-bypass/

Graham Chafe, ASF Reseaarch.

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Great Ideas, Great People, and Great Beer
by Graham on 

Great Ideas, Great People, and Great Beer

 

This week ASF staff attended the Atlantic Salmon Ecosystem Forum in Orono Maine. The two day event focused on the fresh and saltwater ecology of Atlantic salmon and the barriers that arise when restoring and conserving the species. “Are we moving the needle?” Was the theme of the conference and experts shared the shortcomings and the trials and tribulations experienced in projects focusing on habitat restoration, climate change, and freshwater and marine survival.


ASF Biologist Jason Daniels presented his newly published results on quantifying Striped Bass predation on Atlantic Salmon smolts within the Miramichi River. This paper has now been published in The Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and represents a novel technique in quantifying predation rates through acoustic technology. The journal article can be found in the link below.


The forum brought experts from the west and east coasts of North America to share ideas, projects, and the best methods for the future. There is still a long way to go in restoring Atlantic Salmon, but the enthusiasm of everyone attending and the amazing success stories shared shows that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

 



You can find the article here:

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Welcome Ellen
by Graham on 

As we head into the new year, the ASF Research Department is welcoming our newest addition. Ellen Mansfield began this week as Office Manager with our department. She comes to us from Southwest NB Service Commission where she was the Safety/Environmental Affairs staff for several years. Welcome to our team Ellen.



Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Seeing Redd
by Graham on 

At this time of the year, fewer people are out on the river, but the salmon remain. They have moved from the holding pools to spawning grounds and are busy working towards future generations. Also on the river are salmon biologists, conservationists and anglers who are looking to see the results of that activity. When salmon spawn, the female dig depressions in the gravel, called a redds, in which to deposit her eggs. The male moves alongside the female over the redd and expresses his milt while she deposits her eggs. Thus they are fertilized as they sink into the depression. She then covers over the redd so that the eggs are protected from many predators while they develop over the winter.



While the eggs are buried and hidden, the recently turned gravel is a giveaway to those who know what to look for (Lee is pointing to a redd in the photo). Many watershed associations, angling groups and biologists head out on the rivers around this time of year to count redds. They won't achieve exact number of eggs laid of course, typically only certain areas are surveyed, but it does give an idea of any given year's returns or useage of a reach compared to the past. It also provides eyes and ears on the rivers to look out for new obstructions or other impediments to migrating fish. The ASF's Geoff Giffin and Graham Chafe have recently been out with Lee Robinson of the Hammond River Angling Association counting redds on that river. I was there was just after a rise and fall in the water and redds were harder to spot as they had been re-silted and so didn't stand out as much. Geoff and the Hammond group covered a few kilometers of river and counted many redds, a good sign and always reassuring that spawning is continuing.

If you're interested, look to local watershed or angling groups to take part in a redd count, it is a great way to spend a late fall day wandering a river or stream and contributes to knowledge about our favourite fish species.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Grates and Ladders
by Graham on 

At this point in the year, we don't have a lot of field work left, desk season is approaching. There are a few things left, temperature loggers across Charlotte County that need to be picked up and the Magaguadavic fishway needs checking a few times a week.

The high winds and heavy rains of the past several days took the leaves off the trees, removing a lot of the colour from the landscape in the course of hours. When we checked the fishway over the weekend, it seemed like most of the leaves had ended up in there, clogging grates and threatening to hold back the flow. It also seemed that the high water and faster flows may have washed a few fish below the dam. The landlocked salmon here made its way back up the ladder, was quickly measured and photographed before continuing its way back to- the river.

We don't expect to see many more fish, but we'll keep checking until mid-December. At that point we'll bypass the research trap so fish can make their way freely into the river.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.,









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Great Scott
by Graham on 

The ASF Research Department has been tagging salmon kelts with pop-up satellite tags since 2012. These tags are archival, meaning that they record information every so often and store it on-board. Some archival tags need to be retrieved in order to access that data, but in the case of pop-up archival satellite tags (PSATs), they can transmit the data. They 'pop-off' the fish at a pre-determined time, or when sensors suggest the fish has died, and float to the surface. From there, virtually anywhere on the planet, they can transmit to the ARGOS network of satelites. That network is used by scientists for all kinds of fascinating research.

In the spring of 2015, we tagged a kelt in the Northwest Miramichi River with a PSAT. Unfortunately we never received any transmissions from the tag. In the summer of 2016, we found out why. The tag had washed ashore on the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, where it happened to be found by young Calum McLeod. He noticed two things about the tag, that the antennae was broken and information on the tag asking finders to contact the ASF. He did just that and sent it back, along with some fishing stories and hand-drawn art of some of his catches.



The data took some time to extract and analyse the data (more data is available for recovered tags than can be transmitted), but that process is complete now. The kelt in question was tagged in early May, went to see soon after and meandered towards Gaspe and Anticosti Island. Throughout June it moved along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, out the Strait of Belle Isle and then offshore. By July it was way off West Greenland. Unfortunately at this point the data shows that it was predated. The temperature data after predation show much warmer temperatures than the surrounding water, warm enough to be consistent with a marine mammal.  The unfortunate truth for wild Atlantic salmon is that they are prey species for some other animals, however it is nice to know that this particular fish did reproduce at least once before meeting its fate.

Thanks to Calum for keeping his eyes open that day on the beach and reaching out to us. The data from this tag will add to a growing knowledge base of the marine migration routes and diving behaviour of Atlantic salmon kelts as well as predation events.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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ASF's Jonathan Carr in Greenland
by Graham on 

Jonathan Carr, Executive Director of Research at the ASF, has been off in Greenland for a week laying the groundwork for possible future projects there. Our current tracking program does a great job of calculating survival and timing of juvenile and adult Atlantic salmon through the rivers, estuaries and Gulf of St. Lawrence but beyond that, things become a little tricky.



The smaller tags needed for juveniles simply cannot last long enough to assess much in the North Atlantic. Their batteries fade a little ways after passing the Strait of Belle Isle. The larger tags used with post-spawn adult salmon last about three years, which is much better. However, with receivers (used to detect passing tags) only placed as far as the Strait of Belle Isle, observing movement in the northern North Atlantic is still lacking. We do see those fish return - if they return - as alternate spawners. But again, receiver placement limits our information. It would not be logistically and financially feasible to cover enough sections of the North Atlantic with receivers.

Qaqortoq in southwest Greenland. Photo Jonathan Carr/ASF

Satellite tags have proven their usefulness and we have tracks of our satellite-tagged kelts reaching Greenland waters. Jonathan is in southwest Greenland investigating the potential to catch and satellite tag large salmon so we can investigate their winter activities and return journey towards North American rivers.


The photos he sent show a beautiful land and it isn't hard to imagine the salmon swimming offshore. If feasible, tracking salmon from Greenland waters back to North America would cover an important part of their life history that is not currently well-known. As the gaps in understanding the Atlantic salmon's fascinating migration are filled in, the more knowledge we have to manage and fight for the species we care so much about.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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