St Mary's River Has Fragile Salmon Environment


LETTERS - Aug. 6, 2018
Published August 6, 2018 -

Fragile salmon environment

Re: Your article in the July 21 Travel section discussing canoeing opportunities on the St. Mary’s River.

The St. Mary’s River Association appreciated the article and is always seeking ways of bringing attention to the river and to the work the association is doing to restore salmon stocks to historic levels.

One of the main issues is that floods have eroded the riverbanks, creating wide, shallow flows along lengthy sections. In the summer, this provides a large surface area that allows the sun to heat the water temperature to levels that make it difficult for juvenile salmon to survive. Not only can the temperature reach lethal levels, but as water levels fall, large portions of beach are exposed, which often result in the small fish being trapped in the remaining shallow pools.

During the fall, with higher water levels, adult salmon may spawn on these beach areas. In winter, the water freezes, resulting in lower flows that can expose salmon eggs or result in the ice freezing to the bottom along these gravel beaches. Not only can this pose a risk for the salmon eggs deposited in these shallows, but during the spring thaws, when water levels increase, the ice often floats, lifting the gravel with it. This can result in additional erosion and gravel being deposited in areas where other salmon eggs may have been laid.

Atlantic salmon in  St. Mary's River. The restoration of this river's runs would be a major step forward for Nova Scotia. Photo Gilbert van Ryckevorsel

To address this, the SMRA has begun a major restoration effort on the west branch of the St. Mary’s River to create a narrower, deeper channel. Over the last five summers, with the help of our funding partners (NSLC Adopt-A-Stream, the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation and DFO’s RFCPP Fund), we have spent over $1 million in cash and in “in-kind” contributions.

Not only has this work increased the number of salmon spawning in the restored sections of the river, but the narrower channel has improved canoeing opportunities during mid-water levels.

Another project the St. Mary’s River Association has undertaken is to promote canoeing opportunities on the river through stream-side signage and live-trended data accessible via our web page. This data includes a rain gauge, pH level and soon temperature information.

Paddlers, please note the water-level gauge is quite valuable for preplanning. We tell you the levels you need to paddle without dragging your boat. Our west branch has mapping available from Canoe and Kayak Nova Scotia. Our east branch has access signage posted stream-side, starting in Denver or Aspen and ending in the main branch at the beginning of the Stillwater or through the Stillwater at Archibald’s Brook.

Don’t forget about our annual paddling event on Oct. 6. Please check out these and our other projects on the association’s website, our Facebook page, or visit our exhibit centre located on Hwy. 7 beside the river just outside Sherbrooke. If you have questions or would like more information please e-mail (stmarysriver@ns.sympatico.ca).

Kenny Silver, vice president, SMRA