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Species at Risk

Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon Population in Fundy National Park

What are the Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon?

Atlantic salmon
Salmo salar
© Parks Canada

Inner Bay of Fundy (iBoF) Salmon are a very unique population of Atlantic Salmon. Although they may look a lot like other Atlantic Salmon, genetic studies show that they are quite different.

Like most Atlantic salmon, iBoF salmon begin their lives in freshwater rivers before heading out for rich feeding grounds in the ocean. However, once the iBoF salmon leave these rivers - the Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon Rivers in Fundy National Park of Canada , they do not participate in a long distance migration to the waters around Greenland. Instead, they spend a year of so feeding within the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine before returning to their home rivers to spawn.

This unique migration behaviour, along with traits like earlier maturity and high survival rates between spawning periods, make iBoF Salmon distinct from other Atlantic Salmon populations.

Issue

For many years, iBoF Salmon have struggled to survive despite the following challenges due to increasing human activity around the Bay of Fundy:

  • the loss of important habitat,
  • blocked access to home rivers,
  • damage to spawning grounds and riverbanks, and
  • major changes to marine ecosystems where salmon spend a critical period of their lives.
Species at Risk - Who Knew?

Atlantic Salmon are famous for their incredible homing ability. These fish manage to find their way back from the sea to the rivers where they were born with astounding accuracy. When they reach their birth waters, they spawn to produce a new generation of salmon…and the cycle continues.

The numbers of fish are falling dangerously low. The decline in the iBoF Salmon population prompted COSEWIC to designate these fish as endangered in May 2001.

In addition to these challenges, the iBoF salmon are facing another, more mysterious problem. Somewhere, somehow, after leaving their home rivers, iBoF Salmon are disappearing.

It has been found that when the iBoF salmon migrate to the sea to live out the saltwater portion of their life cycle, very few make it back to iBoF to reproduce.

Despite research to date, including a marine tracking program, the problem has not been identified. It may be a combination of factors including climate change, pollution, aquaculture impacts such as cross-breeding and the spreading of disease, shifts in ecology that could lead to increases in the population of the fish’s predators and accidental catches by the fishing industry.

Solution

Parks Canada is embarking on an exciting recovery program with various partners: the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Canadian Rivers Institute, and the Fort Folly First Nation.

Solving the problems at sea

One element of the recovery program involves researching the problems iBoF Salmon are facing in the ocean. Scientists from both Parks Canada and the partnering groups are tracking the movements of the fish using acoustic tags that are implanted in the fish. Using this method, we hope to learn the reasons for the disappearance of iBoF salmon.

Protecting the remaining iBoF Salmon

Capture of young salmon
© Parks Canada
Another element of the recovery project concentrates on protecting the iBoF Salmon from the mysterious challenges that exist in the sea. In consultation with partners, Parks Canada is capturing some of the remaining young salmon as they are migrating for the ocean and holding them at the Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility. It is here where the salmon will be monitored for just over one year until they reach sexual maturity.

Adult fish will be released into park rivers to spawn and produce a new generation of iBoF salmon. Genetic tests called ‘fingerprinting’ are performed on the fish in order to identify the individuals who participated in the recovery actions. Scientists will be able to use this information in later years to determine the success of the “gene bank” program by determining which fish have bred successfully and how many fish have been produced as a result of the program.

Status

Parks Canada is actively investigating the mystery of the disappearing iBoF salmon by examining the clues from the tracking program and the gene bank process. Our efforts will provide powerful insight for the recovery of this special population of salmon and it will also help us in the battle to protect other fish populations at risk of extinction.

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Snaphots

Renee NAME: Renee
POSITION: Ecosystem Scientist
LOCATION: Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

I have worked for the Parks Canada Agency since 1989 and describe my career as "from sea to sea to sea" as I have worked in National Parks in Nunavut, British Columbia, Newfoundland and most recently, in New Brunswick.

In my position, I coordinate the ecosystem science and monitoring program for Fundy National Park and this includes working on species at risk issues. I feel fortunate to work closely with a group of dedicated resource professionals on these projects, particularly the recovery program for the endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon. We take great pride in our work, not only because we are making a positive contribution to recovery of this fish population, but we are also developing leading edge recovery techniques that will benefit recovery programs for similar species in the near future.

My work includes collaborating with a wide range of partners. Although there are times I feel my job title could be “conversation biologist”, our efforts must be coordinated in order to ensure that viable populations of species like Atlantic Salmon, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Northern Flying Squirrels persist across the landscape of southern New Brunswick for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to enjoy.

 

Fundy National Park of Canada - Atlantic Salmon Recovery Program