The Inner Bay of Fundy, between Nova and New Brunswick, has 33 rivers which used to have significant salmon runs. In NS, there are 22, with two of the best known being the Stewiacke and the Shubenacadie. NB has 11, with the Tantramar, the Petitcodiac, and the Big Salmon being most well known.
"The rivers of the inner Bay of Fundy have all experienced catastrophic declines in their salmon runs. Runs which totaled 30,000 to 40,000 in the mid 1980's have deteriorated to a few hundred," said Bill Taylor, Atlantic Salmon Federation president in a press release on September 16. At the same time, he urged the Honourable David Anderson, Canada's Minister of Environment, "to place the inner Bay of Fundy strains of Atlantic salmon on the national strategic priority list for endangered species under Canada's new Species at Risk Act (SARA)." Declining salmon stocks remain a major concern to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, and of particular concern is the plight of the inner Bay of Fundy fish.
A pod of wild Atlantic salmon in an inner Bay
of Fundy river circa 1985. Salmon populations
in these rivers are now on the brink of extinction
Earlier, on August 18, the NSSA president, Terry MacIntyre made a similar request. He said, "Atlantic salmon stocks in the inner Bay of Fundy are in desperate condition. None of the inner bay rivers has met spawning requirements since the late 1980's and, at present, several runs are seriously threatened with extinction." MacIntyre asserts that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not played its part in researching the cause of the problem. "DFO staff have not been given the resources to do their jobs....Our volunteers are getting discouraged by what they feel is a lack of strong commitment by senior Fisheries and Oceans management." An example of this problem of lack of resources is the work of the committee of stakeholders which has been struck to address the Inner Bay issues. The DFO leads this committee and must carry out committee actions, but adequate staff and/or funding is not available to do the work. Budgets for fisheries conservation and management are losing ground, not gaining, even though the situation is becoming more and more critical. MacIntyre also cited the five year, $100 million dollar resource strategy announced for the Pacific coast salmon, making clear that DFO needs to put similar resources into solving East coast salmon problems.
The ASF release said that ASF and Trout Unlimited have filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., trying to force the US government to protect immediately Maine's wild salmon populations under the Endangered Species Act. The interesting point here is that these "salmon populations share the same marine ecosystem as the salmon from the inner Bay of Fundy rivers and ultimately, they suffer the same fate."
As well, the Big Salmon River Angling Association has been circulating a petition (available on the ASF website) that asks for Endangered Species Status for Atlantic Salmon of the Inner Bay of Fundy Rivers. The Big Salmon River Association has been tireless in its work for the Inner Bay. Mention others in NS!!!
Philip Lee wrote the article "Shining a Light into the Black Hole" (ATLANTIC SALMON JOURNAL, Autumn 1999) which described a fascinating research project being conducted on salmon from inner Bay of Fundy rivers. Two groups of smolt from the Big Salmon River (the first 29 and the second 37) were fitted with coded transmitters (in the abdomen). These fish have been tracked and the data will be analyzed. Kudos to Gilles Lacroix, a DFO biolgist from St. Andrews, and Fred Voegeli, an electrical engineer from VEMCO, Shad Bay, N.S., who developed this ocean tracking system.
Tracking is intended to help answer the questions surrounding the devastation of the stocks. What factors have been the villains? What is the impact of : aquaculture? predators? pollution? acid rain? overfishing? climate change? poaching? What mysterious circumstances in the ocean itself are contributing to the problem?
This project has already proved successful, because it did track fish in an ocean environment, but it is a very expensive venture. Its expansion will require a consistent, large source of money but the scientific rewards from tracking salmon into the ocean will be huge. Can we afford not to find the money? ASF, through the support of the Molson and McCormick Tribune Foundations, has facilitated the research thus far. The NSSA is committed, through the Anglers Trust Fund, to raising $50,000 towards supporting the research. An important thrust here is the sale of the Year 2000 calendar, which is sponsored by the Investors Group. The proceeds will go to the Inner Bay research. To quote Fred Whoriskey,"the battle for the survival of the Atlantic salmon...is raging most fiercely in the Bay of Fundy area. If we lose there, the road back becomes much harder. The Bay of Fundy is where we could be developing the strategies that we need to reverse the declines. It is here that we could test our techniques, correct them, and return to the battle." (Atlantic Salmon Journal, Summer 1999)
In summary, we need more government legislative support to protect what is left of the fragile inner Bay of Fundy stock (Endangered Species Designation), more DFO scientific support, and more money from governmental, corporate, and individual sources to help research and restoration projects go forward.