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Research - In the Field Search  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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