Loading





id = "FBMainForm_29925244" action="/research-in-the-field.html" method = "post" onsubmit = "return false" >
Research - In the Field Search  

« Previous 1 of 13 Next »
 
Shock and Awe
by Graham on 

Like uninvited guests at a party, aquaculture escapees keep showing up at the research trap on the Magaguadavic River. As of this morning, 27 have attempted to ascend the river. Hopefully that is the end of them, but it begs the question, are they entering un-monitored rivers too? We'll keep watch as always, and keep hoping to find more wild fish waiting for us.

Our juvenile surveys are complete for the year, with two weeks to spare. Numbers were not especially good, though with the extreme low water, the fish likely have moved to better habitat up or downstream. We may return to a few sites if we can once the water comes up again. It was a fun year, with new crew, new skills and a new electrofisher. We replaced our 20-year old unit with a new one that is lighter, more comfortable and more advanced. Heather, our newest biologist, and Alaia, our student from France, were both new to electrofishing this year and enjoyed using their new skills and visiting some of the beautiful spots in southwest New Brunswick.

Most electrofishing crews have a set of rules, mostly to do with procedure and safety. We do too, but have a few extras as well. Some of the sites can be tricky to walk through, slippery rocks that move underfoot are a challenge. If a crew member falls into the water properly, getting wet above or inside their waders, they buy the rest of us lunch. It should be noted that there are several safety features built into the equipment and crew procedure to prevent someone who falls from being shocked. Having said that, if the fallen member does get shocked, then the electrofisher operator, usually me, buys them lunch, it only seems fair. In my six seasons electrofishing with the ASF, only one crew member has ever fallen in the water, and no one has ever been shocked.

While the surveys are indeed enjoyable days, they are important too.  The Outer Bay of Fundy salmon population is being considered for listing under the Species at Risk Act and these surveys are the only source of yearly data on some of the rivers in the area. For our part, the project is made possible again this year with help from the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund (http://www.nbwtf.ca/) and we really appreciate the support for continuing this important project.


Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Activities Near and Far
by Graham on 

Activities of interest are happening all over the Maritimes this week. From St. George, NB to Green Island Cove, NL the efforts continue as the weather begins to cool. Locally, we've made great progress with juvenile surveys this week. Heather Dixon, myself and Alaia Morell spent a few days on the New, Pocologan and Digdeguash Rivers and keeping an eye out for returns to the Magaguadavic. Alaia is a student, our third,  from Agrocampus Ouest in France and is joining us until the end of January. She'll be helping with field work, lending a hand on many projects in and out of the office to get some good exposure as well as a main project dealing with the receiver line in the Strait of Belle Isle.

There have been 23 escapee salmon in the fishway in the Magaguadavic so far this year and the last four have been carrying between 15 and 50 sea lice each. With only two wild fish so far, it is looking like another very poor year for the river. The season isn't done yet so our fingers are crossed.

In northern New Brunswick, staff has been busy recovering receivers at Campbellton, Dalhousie and across Chaleur Bay. The same goes over in Newfoundland and Labrador where 46 out of 51 receivers have been pulled in so far. The other 7 aren't considered missing yet however, the tides and currents are very strong there, not to mention frequent rough weather. So it typically takes several attempts to find all the gear. More often than not, it is right where it is supposed to be and is easy to find once the weather and seas cooperate.

A few more juvenile survey sites to go tomorrow and next week and then we'll wrap that up for the year. Things will slow down in the field and speed up on the desks for a while before we'll be out spawning fish for the Magaguadavic Program. Today will seem like yesterday in December and we'll wonder where the autumn went.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Out of Hermine
by Graham on 

September is a time of local field work for the ASF Research team. We're still electrofishing in Charlotte and York counties and the monitoring of the fishway at St. George is on-going. So far, the results from our juvenile surveys are not promising, with few salmon counted in any of the sites we've visited. Worth noting however, is that the river and stream levels are very low, lower than I've seen them in the past 6 years. Low levels, little rain, a tropical storm that passed us by, and warm nights have led to still high water temperatures. We don't conduct surveys when the waters are too warm to avoid stress on the fish. But it also means that perhaps the fish have moved out of our sites to find cooler more abundant water. We have many sites left to see, and the weather outlook is generally favourable, so we should complete the project in a timely manner. This project is kindly supported by the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, they fund and support many great conservation projects throughout the province. If you'd like to learn more, visit them at http://www.nbwtf.ca/about-us/introduction/.

The other story of note from our team this week is the continued arrival of escapee fish at the St. George fishway. We are up to 19 for the year so far. We'll continue to monitor the fishway until December, so we'll be sure to see every escapee that comes in until then.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

The (hopefully not) Great Escape
by Graham on 

This week the ASF Research Department is focused closer to home. We're conducting juvenile surveys of several southwest New Brunswick rivers and keeping an eye on the Magaguadavic River. Some electrofishing surveys are complete and we're on our way to the Dennis Stream today. The Dennis flows into the St. Croix estuary in St. Stephen, NB and is a nice little river that meanders through woods and some farm areas. Of all the rivers we survey in the area, the Dennis typically has the best numbers of juvenile salmon. Nowhere near enough to support recreational fishing, but they are there. Hopefully we find the same or better results today.

The Magaguadavic, on the other hand, is not doing so well. Wild returns have been in the single digits for the last few years and so far in 2016 we have only two wild salmon ascend the fish ladder at the head-of-tide dam in St. George. That isn't to say that we have only seen two salmon come up though There have been, in the last week and a half, 15 salmon originating from the aquaculture industry. They are identified by an on-site examination of the growth pattern on a scale sample. There are other indications that don't need special equipment however. The photo included shows the dorsal fin of an escapee salmon, as is often the case, it is stumpy and fleshier than a wild salmon's dorsal fin. You can often tell just by looking, but we always check the scale details to be sure. We had five in one day earlier in the week, which had us worried that the numbers would keep increasing, but since then we've had only one or none each day. There have been no reported escapes from the net pens in the area as of yesterday so hopefully it wasn't a large event and we've gotten all we will.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

1300 Fish Scientists Walk Into a Bar...
by Graham on 

Television has its Emmy's, movies have their Oscars and fisheries science has the annual American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting. Every year, researchers from across North America and beyond gather for a few days to keep in touch with each other's research, form collaborations, check out the new equipment from manufacturers and present their findings. This year, it is in Kansas City, Missouri. To those of us from the Maritimes, it may have seemed an odd choice, but everywhere there is water, there are fish. The Kansas and mighty Missouri Rivers join forces right here in the city and being central, has resulted in about 1300 attendees to the conference. I'm here representing ASF and am touching base with several other scientists who also work on salmon, fish passage problems and other issues of interest to ASF and our members.

Yesterday there was a symposium, one of many running concurrently, on pop-up satellite tagging. It allowed us to compare notes and methods and see each other's work, very important when dealing with technology such as these tags. From the practical perspective of attachment and recovery methods to the brainy solutions of modelling light or magnetic-based geolocation, it was a very productive session.

ASF's satellite tagging project on the Northwest Miramichi was presented by John Strom, our Norwegian collaborator on the project. His presentation dealt with the intricacies of light-based geolocation, not a simple thing, and the results of our work. From our satellite-tag tracking efforts, we have learned that Miramichi post-spawn salmon reside in the western Gulf of St. Lawrence for a period of up to approximately 40 days before either returning to the river as consecutive spawners or out to the North Atlantic as alternates. While in the gulf, they make frequent dives to 30-50m, but this behaviour changes in the Atlantic. Once past the straight of Belle Isle, we've discovered that there is no one route, or behaviour along that route, that all salmon follow. Some stay over the continental shelf, just off the Labrador coast and move north towards Baffin Island while making shallower dives, though deeper than in the gulf. Others go over truly deep water off the shelf and move north towards western Greenland while making dives over hundreds of meters, one of our fish dove to 900m.

The main lesson learned from this work so far, is that while our salmon exhibit similar behaviour in freshwater, they use a diversity of habitats and migration routes in their oceanic stages as adults. That means that the area of concern for at-sea mortality is large. Very, very large. Further research and more tracking is needed, but we're up to the task.

As for the title of this blog, even with the beer, wine and Kansas City's famous bbq, we still talk about fish. Asian carp hotdog anyone?

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Little Needle, Big Haystack.
by Graham on 

Once again we have gotten lucky with our satellite tags. As readers will know, these tags are supposed to 'let go' of the post-spawn salmon they are attached to after several months at sea, between the end of August and the end of October depending on the year. Then, they transmit their data to passing ARGOS system satellites and I download the information from their servers. Sometimes, however, we don't hear a thing from them. Unfortunately it is usually impossible to know just why, after all it is a tiny object floating about in a very large ocean. Other times we luck out, as we did last year when two tags were found by people walking the beaches of the North Atlantic. One turned up on the west coast of Greenland and the other on the shores of Ireland. In both cases the finders saw the contact information printed on the tags, got in touch with us and sent the tags back. In both those cases the tags had transmitted, so we had a lot of information from them, but were able to extract even more once we had them in hand. What about the ones we never heard from? The ones that didn't transmit at all? What happened to them and where did they end up?

We will soon have some answers for at least one of those tags. We received a message the other day from Calum MacLeod, a young angler who lives on the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. He was wandering the beach and came across one of our tags. This tag didn't transmit at all so we have no information as yet on the path or behaviour of that fish, the whole point of the project. Soon, we will. He is sending the tag back to us and in a few months we'll know a lot more about that fish and tag's journey. Along with telling us how and where he found it, he passed along the three photos posted here. One of him finding the tag. The next of him and a 7 pound lythe (we call them pollock) that he caught when he was 7, very impressive. The other is a drawing he made of a 100cm salmon that he also angled, even more impressive.

From the photo of him and the tag, we can see that the tag's antennae is broken, explaining why it wasn't able to transmit.  In any study like this, one expects to lose a certain proportion of tags, you never get them all back. So every single one counts, and thanks to Calum, and others like him, we get a few more back than we would otherwise.

So next time you're wandering the seashore, keep an eye out for what you may be stepping over. It might have made an incredible journey and have  story to tell.





Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Is It That Time Already?!
by Graham on 

It seems like we just put the receiver equipment out and tagged the smolts and kelt not long ago but it is already time to begin the wind up process for the season. The receivers, that listen for the tagged fish, were put out in late-April and early May and somehow it is already mid-August. The fish themselves were tagged over the course of May. Those on their way to sea have of course long passed all the receivers int he Miramichi and Restigouche Rivers. They've even passed the Strait of Belle Isle lines, some 700km away. The kelts pass first, around the first week of July, and the smolts tend to be up to a week later. Both life-stage groups pass with more or less the same timing every year, regardless of river of origin or date of tagging. The reason that we leave the gear out until now is for fish on their way back to the river. Even those have passed into the systems some time ago, for the most part. There can be stragglers, and we want to be sure to record as much information about repeat spawners as possible.

So on that note, Jason and Mike are headed up to Miramichi today. They didn't choose to do this over a weekend, the weather did. It is a long way to drive from St. Andrews only to find it is too rough for the work, so we tend to go when we're confident about getting on the water. The Miramichi isn't the only group of receivers coming out int he near future, the Restigouche is up for grabs as well. Carole-Anne Gillis will be collecting the Chaleur Bay receiver line next week and will be out today going after our Dalhousie and Dalhousie Junction receivers. That will leave three in the river at Campbellton, some researchers in that area are have tagged eels so our receives are being left in place for a bit longer to help them increase the scope of their study. Tracking fish is a big effort and collaborations are frequent and very helpful for all involved.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Wishin' for a Transmission
by Graham on 

Four hundred kilometers west of the southern tip of Greenland a little device is floating in the water. Every so often an ARGOS satellite passes overhead, and when one does, the device emits a one second burst of data every minute. Over the course of two to three weeks, until the battery finally runs down, all those short transmissions will add up to incredible information about the path and behaviour of a Restigouche salmon.

The device, of course, is one of our satellite tags that we have been using since 2012. Until 2016, we'd been putting them on Northwest Miramichi kelts, but this year moved the program to the Restigouche river. The tag that is transmitting right now was put on an 88.5cm, 5kg male just above the confluence with the Matapedia on May 2nd. It was the second smallest of the 10 fish we tagged, they do grow big fish in the Restigouche.

Two tags have popped off and transmitted now, and two are known to be or have been back in the river. That leaves 6 salmon out there collecting information. The information from the Miramichi tags, and eventually the Restigouche tags is proving to be very interesting, results of four years of Miramichi satellite tagging will be presented at the American Fisheries Society annual conference in Kansas City in August. A paper on the same has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal. As things get finalized, I will share more information here in this blog.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Samosas
by Graham on 

Striped Bass are a hot topic of conversation these days, especially on the Northwest Miramichi River where they are a native species. While the striper spawning escapement was very low in the late 90s, it has climbed dramatically over the past few years and this has raised concerns over their possible impact on salmon smolt as they migrate to sea. While just being on the river and seeing the large numbers of stripers active near the surface would raise the concern of any salmon conservationist, it is important to quantify what is happening in order to be well-informed and allow managers and decision-makers to have good quality information from which to operate.

As a part of that effort, the ASF has been looking in to the question of striper predation on smolts. What we are doing has to do with patterns. We have been tracking smolt for many years and have a lot of data around their movement out of the river. Other organizations, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Quebec Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, have been tagging striped bass for several years. In conjunction and cooperation with them, ASF's Jason Daniels is doing an investigation comparing the movements of both smolt (Salmo salar) and stripers (Morone saxatillis) and creating a model that determines, based on hard data, whether or not a smolt has been consumed by a striper. Since we abbreviate all kinds of words around here, it was only natural to do the same in this case. Taking the first two letters of the species names of the salmon smolts and the stripers who possibly ate them gives us "samosa".

 Smolts tend to have few changes in direction in river and proceed mostly downstream at all times (the first chart shows a smolt that descends the Northwest Miramichi and proceeds to the Strait of Belle Isle). Stripers spend time in the spawning areas and go both up and down stream, changing directions more frequently (the second photo shows the movement of a tagged striped bass). A smolt tag that shows the movement pattern of  striper may in fact have been predated by a striped bass. It is more complicated than it sounds and results are pending, though Jason and others are hard at work on the analysis.


Graham Chafe, ASF Research


Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

Ebb and Flow
by Graham on 

While tracking wild juvenile and post-spawn adult salmon is our flagship project, the ASF Research Team is involved in many other activities. We monitor the Magaguadavic River for returns of wild and escapee salmon (and other species), conduct juvenile surveys of southwest New Brunswick rivers, in recent years we've tracked river herring moving within the St. Croix River, and put out equipment for temperature surveys in southwest New Brunswick watersheds. Another project that we are involved with this season is a survey of flows in  the Chamcook watershed.

The Chamcook watershed is relatively small with a few lakes and several streams. It empties into Passamaquoddy Bay after flowing right between the ASF Headquarters and the ASF's Wild Salmon Nature Centre. Several different user groups use the watershed as a water source and for recreation and are therefore affected by the levels and water availability.  As we did in 2012 and 2013, we are making weekly trips into the watershed to measure flows in the streams as water flows from one lake to another on its way to the ocean. We use flowmeters to measure the velocity of the water across a transect of a stream, and calculate the area of that cross-section. Combining the data together gives us a discharge for that point at that moment in time. The data shows where and when water is flowing as well as temperatures and dissolved oxygen contents. Aside form being very useful information for landowners, stakeholders and managers, it is a great way to explore the area and spend a day, at least when it isn't pouring rain. This project will go on until October, when we'll wrap it up and complete a report of our activities and findings.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

Comments     Permalink     Add Comment

« Previous 1 of 13 Next »
 
RSS Feed