Salmon Tags Found Across North Atlantic Help Researchers


Salmon tags found in North Atlantic help researchers
Electronic devices put in fish in New Brunswick in 2014 recovered in Greenland and Ireland

CBC News Posted: Jul 23, 2015 1:04 PM AT Last Updated: Jul 23, 2015 1:22 PM AT

The recovery in Greenland and Ireland of two electronic tags attached to salmon in New Brunswick in 2014 is giving researchers valuable insight into the travels of the fish.

The tags are attached to selected salmon by the Atlantic Salmon Federation in an effort to try and discover the reasons for high mortality at sea.

On May 14, 2014, a 93-cm kelt a salmon that spawned the previous fall and was returning to sea to feed before turning to span again was tagged in the Red Bank area on the Northwest Miramichi River.

The fish then went down the river and spent the next several months in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence before heading to the North Atlantic through the Strait of Belle Isle.

"It wandered out to the edge of the continental shelf briefly before heading back somewhat closer to the coast of Labrador," said Graham Chafe, a biologist with the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

"At the northern tip of the province, it headed in a generally eastern direction to Greenland's western coast where it spent the month of September last year. The tag later popped off the fish as it was programmed to do and then transmitted its recorded data to us via ARGOS satellites. The fish was alive and well at the time of pop-off."

The tag then drifted on the open sea for three weeks before its battery died. A few weeks ago it was found on the shores of Disko Bay in Greenland and returned to the researchers.

"It's like finding a needle in a haystack because these tags are only a few inches long and quite light and narrow," said Chafe.

The return of the tag will allow researchers to download more data that can't be accessed through satellite transmission.

"We'll gain even more information on the habits and habitats of this particular fish thanks to the people who found it now that it's back home in New Brunswick," said Chafe.

A pop-off tag from another of the 11 salmon tagged in 2014 was found on the shores of Ireland in June by a vacationing family, which has been in contact with Chafe about returning the tag.

The tagged popped off that fish in the North Atlantic on Aug. 22, 2014 because the fish died.

"Sometimes we can tell why a fish died such as due to a predator, but in this case we aren't sure," said Chafe.

The tag floated about 3,000 kilometres before being found in Ireland.