Salmon Federation Seeks Youth Involvement

3 Apr 2014

Salmon Federation seeks youth involvement

Salmon-raising class projects and fly-fishing clubs help raise awareness toward conservation of important N.B. resource

Alan Cochrane, Times & Transcript

The Atlantic Salmon Federation is trying to get more New Brunswick youth involved in salmon conservation, and one way of doing that is a project where students care for eggs in the classroom and then release the fish into the water.

“These kids become parents to the fish and when they take them to the rivers to release them, that’s an experience they will remember for the rest of their life,” ‍Geoff ‍Giffin, Director of N.B. Programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said yesterday. He was guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Moncton Men’s PROBUS Club.

In his presentation to the club yesterday, ‍Giffin said 114 New Brunswick schools – including some in Metro Moncton – have salmon incubation tanks. The in-school programs were started by the Atlantic Salmon Federation in the 1990s but were recently handed off to the New Brunswick Salmon Council. The programs continue and depend on volunteers to be maintained.

Some New Brunswick schools also have fly-fishing clubs where students raise funds, learn how to tie salmon flies and go on field trips. He said these projects help raise awareness and education and get youth involved as the next generation of New Brunswickers who will work to protect this valuable resource.

Giffin said salmon fishing is an important part of the New Brunswick lifestyle and also the economy,as recreational anglers spend millions of dollars in an industry that supports hundreds of jobs.

But he said Atlantic salmon remain an endangered species whose survival is threatened by soil erosion, pollution, invasive species like the smallmouth bass, overfishing and poaching. The Atlantic Salmon Federation’s primary goals are research,advocacy and education to protect the salmon and habitat.The Atlantic Salmon Federation is now flexing its political muscle as Greenland is trying to increase the amount of salmon it can harvest each year.

New Brunswick’s river system was once home to a thriving salmon population but many of those rivers are closed to salmon angling.

Giffin said the Petitcodiac River,which was long choked by the causeway gates, has been showing signs of promise since the gates were opened.

“There’s work going on to restore the population of all the rivers of the inner Bay of Fundy,which includes the Big Salmon River and the Fundy Park rivers and now the Petitcodiac.There are signs that some spawning has taken place along the Petitcodiac,so they are moving along the Pollett River and the Little River and into spawning areas.We will be monitoring the river for smolt coming out this year,” ‍Giffin said in an interview following his presentation.

“And it’s not just the salmon. It’s about all the other foundational species that seem to be rebounding in the Petitcodiac. That’s very exciting. But the situation for Atlantic salmon for all the rivers of the Inner Bay of Fundy are all listed as endangered under species at risk.There’s only a few hundred adults now where there used to be tens of thousands.That’s how bad it is.”

Giffin said modern technology is helping the federation improve its tagging and tracking systems, which have provided some good clues for researchers to pursue.

Fish are tagged with small beacons which emit radio signals that can be tracked. The better tags with a longer battery life are sending signals to an increased number of receivers.This is helping researchers track the fish and how many of them return home to spawn after their trip out to sea.

“There’s a whole variety of issues that are affecting Atlantic salmon. We know there has been a big change in the abundance of striped bass, and there seems to be a change in the survival of smolt salmon. We need to understand if it is related and if so how it is related. We’ve been able to add more receiver arrays and hone in on how they are movingand where the are going.It raises the eyebrows and gives us cause to do more research and get to the bottom of it.”

During yesterday’s presentation, ‍Gif‍‍fin also showed members of the club a video showing the best ways to hook and release a big salmon without causing it physical harm.

The Moncton Men’s PROBUS Club is an organization of retired local businessmen. They meet the first Wednesday of the month in the banquet room of Moncton Employment and Training Services Centre, 1250 St. George Blvd.