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Habitat and Water Quality

Healthy habitat and  high water quality are essential to the survival of wild Atlantic salmon, and rely on reducing human impacts wherever possible. ASF, its Councils, and its Affiliates are involved in a wide range of programs focusing on restoring rivers - not just to benefit wild Atlantic salmon but to provide a better future for the entire ecosystem, including all the native plants and animals.


Among the factors that can affect habitat and water quality:


  • Forestry practices - we need soils held on slopes, shade over streams, and no forest pesticides finding their way into rivers. ASF's regional councils work diligently in delivering the argument to take freshwater habitat into consideration when developing forest cutting plans, and to see the value of the entire ecosystem
  • Agriculture - Silt washing into rivers clogs gills; pesticides create massive die-offs, and plowing right to the water's edge also removes shade, then causing rivers to heat up and lose oxygen
  • Point and non-point residential pollution - Atlantic salmon rivers can flow directly through residential areas, when proper consideration is given to keep extra nutrients out of the water.
  • Road construction and maintenance practices - When culverts are enplaced with a hanging lower lip, no fish can get through them. To continue being streams, there needs to be a continuous flow through culverts. Meanwhile, runoff from roads needs diversion into forests and not rivers. Salt, sand, silt and oils have no place in rivers. Runoff from sand and gravel operations has no place in rivers either.
  • Acid Rain - In Nova Scotia, Maine and some parts of southern New Brunswick acid rain has endangered the survival of Atlantic salmon populations. In Nova Scotia more than a dozen rivers have lost their salmon runs due to acid rain.
  • Removing native species - In the St. Croix River on the boundary of Maine and New Brunswick, a Maine political decision closed fishways to native alewives because it was thought, erroneously, that it interfered with the introduced smallmouth bass. ASF is working to bring back this watershed towards health by allowing migration to an important part of the ecosystem.

ASF Regional Council and Affiliate Programs - A Selection

Individuals and organizations can be effective. The Gardner-Pinfold Economic Value of Wild Atlantic Salmon showed that non-profits spend $15 Million per year on Atlantic salmon, and bring to the table an extra $12 Million per year of in-kind donations.

  • In Maine, the Regional Council is particularly active in badly needed culvert restoration that will help bring back hundreds of miles of small tributaries to health.
    • The international St. Croix River has brought involvement from both the Maine and NB regional councils in pursuit of reopening the dam fishways to the native alewives.
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Regional Director and Council are very involved in several projects that are mostly associated with upstream and downstream passage, but also the sampling for genetics of Atlantic salmon across the province.
  • In Nova Scotia, the Regional Director and Council are much involved with liming, to bring back the rivers along the outer coast of the province that are badly affected by acid rain.
    • In the Gold River, an entire watershed is being limed, in a pioneering effort to see if this will successfully improve the acidity levels sufficiently to bring back trout, salmon and the host of invertebrates that are all part of the natural ecosystem.
    • In West River, Sheet Harbour ASF, the Nova Scotia Salmon Assoc., and many others have had an automated lime doser in operation for a half dozen years, with amazingly positive results. Funded without Government money, the project has seen parr numbers increase by more than 300% and new sections of the river are being recolonized. In addition, the entire ecosystem is rebounding in a stunning turnaround that needs to be used as a model for more than 50 other rivers that have lost their salmon entirely, or have reduced productivity.
  • In New Brunswick, the Regional Council is actively supporting the implementation of river classification standards, as a protection for freshwater habitat. ASF affliate organizations and the New Brunswick Salmon Council are actively involved with many specific projects. Among them:
    • The Nashwaak River Association has been actively working to increase the knowledge base related to a proposed large open-pit tungsten mine, the Sisson Brook Mine.
    • The Hammond River Angling Assoc. is undertaking the repair of a segment of river bank with a well-planned restoration project, as this river bank fell into the edge of a very important salmon pool.

The level of involvement of ASF's Regional Councils and Affiliate organizations allows the expertise of hundreds of experienced river conservationists to be utilized in effective projects on the rivers.