Protecting an endangered icon

Low survival in salt water meant the inner Bay of Fundy population was at risk of extinction. In the face of disaster local groups, Aboriginal communities and government agencies came together to give the King of Fish a fighting chance

The inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon had entered a dangerous cycle. The number of spawning adults was too low to rebuild the population. The young salmon still in the river systems would soon leave for saltwater, where most would not survive, meaning even fewer adults would come back. Realizing the cycle needed to be broken, scientists began an ambitious program.

Beginning in the early 2000s Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Fort Folly First Nation worked together to collect young salmon from a few inner Fundy Rivers to start a Live Gene Bank program. The partnership between Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Fort Folly to protect wild Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon has continued to grow and strengthen to this day.

The Live Gene Bank, based in the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility, protects the unique families of the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon population by collecting juveniles from the wild, growing them to adults, and spawning them in captivity. The young salmon produced from these spawnings are released back to the wild. Most inner Bay of Fundy salmon only migrate to the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine, and only stay at sea for one year. Both these traits are very unusual compared to other Atlantic salmon. These behaviours are probably linked to their unique genes, which allow them to survive in the Fundy region.

This is what makes the Live Gene Bank so important; it allows their uniqueness to be protected, giving scientists the chance to support the return of Atlantic salmon to the Bay of Fundy.

Next part: Reasons for hope