ASF Closer to Finding Reason for Salmon Mortality in Early Part of Migration

For immediate release
January 14, 2014

St Andrews, N.B.— Top researchers with the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) are trying to figure out why wild Atlantic salmon  populations are dropping dramatically once they leave their home rivers and head  outward to saltwater.

Jonathan Carr,  ASF’s Director of Research and Environment, recently presented his latest scientific findings at the Atlantic Salmon Ecosystems Forum in Orono, Maine.  Scientists from across North America gathered to exchange information regarding the latest  research surrounding wild Atlantic salmon.

Carr presented more than 10 years worth of research involving young salmon smolts,  using acoustic telemetry to track both smolts and kelts.  The research tracking smolts has been  ongoing since 2003 on the Miramichi, Restigouche and Cascapedia Rivers.

“Every year we gather new bits of information so it’s very important to track over time, “said Carr.   “Our research has shown that freshwater survival for smolts is good, but there is high mortality in estuary and bay areas.”

Carr and his team are launching new studies to try to figure out what is causing these high mortalities.  They will be tracking Striped Bass as well to see if they are found  in the same areas as smolts.  They will also be looking at the stomach contents of the Striped Bass.  It’s a partnership between ASF, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as the Miramichi Salmon Association .

“We’ll also be looking at predatory cormorants in the Restigouche estuary system,” says Carr.  “We ran an aerial survey over the colonies last year looking for eggs and nests.  We can determine using visual surveys that cormorants are consuming a certain percentage of smolts.”

Carr and his team use pit tags, which are inserted in smolts, to determine if the birds may be eating them.  They then search areas with cormorant populations seeking out the pit tags using metal detectors.

“This gives us more probability of doing something about the high mortality rates if we can address the problem closer to home,” said Carr.  

ASF researchers will be back in the field starting in May of this year.


The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well-being and survival depend.  ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England).  The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.

ASF Contact:  Holly Johnson, Manager of Public Information:
(506)469-1033(c),   HJohnson@asf.ca
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