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COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Atlantic Salmon (Inner Bay of Fundy populations) in Canada

Existing Protection or Other Status Designations

Designations

Atlantic salmon:  

      IUCN: LR (lower risk)

      Rankings by Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre:

                  Global: G5 (demonstrably secure globally)

                  National (Canada): N4 (usually widespread)

         Provincial (New Brunswick): S3 (uncommon)

         Provincial (Nova Scotia): S2 (rare)

      WWF (2001) classifies Atlantic salmon, on a per river basis throughout its global range, as 15% Extinct, 12% Critical, 20% Endangered, 10% Vulnerable, and 43% healthy (N = 2,005 rivers in 19 countries).

Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon DU:

      COSEWIC: Endangered (May 2001)

      SARA: Endangered, Schedule 1 (June 2003)

 

Protection and Recovery Plans

In Canada, the Fisheries Act administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) protects Atlantic salmon federally.  All commercial, recreational and First Nations fisheries on Atlantic salmon have been closed since 1990.  Environment Canada administers the section of the Act pertaining to the release of deleterious substances in watercourses.  Two rivers (the Upper Salmon and Point Wolfe) are partially within the boundaries of Fundy National Park and are afforded protection by the National Parks Act, administered by the Parks Canada Agency of the Department of the Environment.  New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have provincial authority over the riverbed and water rights, licensing of the recreational fishery, issues of environmental protection, land use, forest management, agriculture, and aquaculture (including the number and location of Atlantic salmon farms).  Both federal and provincial governments work together in managing the iBoF populations; DFO is the lead agency for delivering the Recovery Program.

National Recovery Strategy for iBoF Atlantic Salmon

The National Recovery Team for iBoF Atlantic Salmon Populations has developed a strategy that defines “actions necessary to protect, conserve and ensure the recovery” of the iBoF Atlantic salmon (National Recovery Team 2002).  These actions include: juvenile abundance surveys (e.g., Gibson et al. 2003a, Gibson et al. 2004); genetic analyses (e.g., O'Reilly In Preparation), juvenile and adult monitoring (e.g., Gibson et al. 2004); creation of a Live Gene Bank including captive breeding and release (e.g., O'Reilly and Doyle In Press); threat assessments; studies of migration; closure of all directed fisheries for iBoF salmon; and an organization to guide the Recovery Program.  An updated Recovery Strategy is scheduled to be released in 2006. 

Live Gene Bank

The Recovery Team has established a Live Gene Bank (LGB) program of captive breeding and rearing to decrease the probability of extinction of iBoF Atlantic salmon (O'Neil et al. 2003, Gibson et al. 2004, O'Reilly and Doyle In Press).  The LGB is designed to preserve the genetic makeup of the populations, thereby protecting the fish while allowing for future restoration of viable populations.  Collections of founder broodstock began in 1998 from the two index rivers, the Big Salmon and the Stewiacke, and later expanded to nine other rivers.  Wild individuals are captured as parr (electrofished) or smolt (rotary screw trap), reared to maturity in a hatchery environment, and bred according to a genetic protocol to minimize the loss of genetic diversity.  Progeny at various life stages are then released into the original source rivers to experience natural selection before recollection into the captive program.  The first release was in 2001 and is continuing annually.  Rivers that have had LGB releases tend to have higher salmon densities than those without LGB support (Figures 11 and 12).  However, it is not the current intention that the LGB progeny will mature to adulthood in the wild and breed naturally: the LGB program is intended to be a reservoir of iBoF salmon genes until environmental conditions allow for the restoration of the DU. Hatchery programs have rarely been successful in restoring wild populations (National Research Council 2002, 2004), and at this stage the LGB program, although perhaps the most sophisticated culture-based program in North America, should be considered an experiment.  As of 2003, with 1,600 adults harboured in LGB facilities (Table 3) and only perhaps 100 in the wild, it is evident that, until scientists and managers identify and solve the issues underlying population declines, the immediate future of iBoF Atlantic salmon is in the hands of culturists.  

Table 3.  The number of Atlantic salmon by life stage held in captivity as part of the iBoF salmon Live Gene Bank program as of December 2003. From Gibson et al. (2004).
Province and River of OriginLife
Stage

Egg
Life
Stage

Parr
Life
Stage

Post-Smolt
Life
Stage

Adult
Nova Scotia    
Gaspereau73,00012,0005267
Stewiacke477,00051,000180547
Great Village   48
Economy   34
Harrington  202 
Portapique   7
Folly   1
Debert   2
Mixed Minas Basin   13
New Brunswick    
Big Salmon1,100,00024,000970742
Black100,000  142
Upper Salmon  96 
Total1,750,00087,0001,5001,603