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Southern Labrador salmon returns very low

CBC NEWS - NL

Southern Labrador salmon returns very low, says DFO

DFO says counts for monitored rivers among lowest since counting began

CBC News Posted: Aug 23, 2016 12:44 PM NT

Salmon returns are very low in some southern Labrador rivers, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which monitors four rivers in the area.

A federal fisheries researcher said the number of fish returning to at least one of those rivers the southwest tributary of the Paradise River is extremely low.

"It's going to be one of the lowest counts on record but not the lowest. We've been counting there since 1998 and it's going to probably be just above our lowest record, which was in 2009," said Martha Robertson, a DFO research scientist who studies salmon.

Robertson said researchers are also finding low numbers of returning fish on the Sandhill River and in Muddy Bay Brook.

"This year on Paradise River and Sandhill River, we have less than half the fish we would expect on average," Robertson told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

Robertson said it may be related to spawning fish numbers years ago.

"Looking back at historical numbers to see why numbers would be low this year, and I see low spawners coming into the river in 2009 and 2010. And this year's fish would be the young fish returning from those parents so given that we had low spawners years ago, it's not surprising," she said.

"But, you know, that wouldn't be the whole story. We have had low numbers going out but it really is driven by what their marine survival [in the ocean] would be."

However, Robertson said there is some good news.

"Now northern Labrador, English River where we count it's doing great this year. So it is wide-spread but not everywhere this summer," said Robertson.

"So it would suggest that it's something environmental. We don't really know where these fish go at sea. So it would look like maybe the fish from southern Labrador are eating in a different area than those fish from northern Labrador."

Robertson said DFO plans to begin research in 2017 to try to understand what influences the survival of salmon at sea.