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Canoes, Waders and Automobiles
by Graham on 

Tagging efforts continued over the long weekend on three Rivers. Eric and Michael were up on the Restigouche tagging kelts. Thanks to David Leblanc, the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council and all the volunteer anglers for making it a success. They didn't manage to tag all the fish we had planned, but considering the late season and tricky conditions, it went very well. Meanwhile, Jason and I were on the Northwest Miramichi after smolts. The run wasn't too strong while we were there so Eric and Michael stopped by on the way home and finished up for us so we could head to the Southwest Miramichi for another batch of tagging. The Miramichi Salmon Association and Kelsey McGee get a big thanks for setting up and operating the smolt wheel and fishing it every day for us.  Thanks also goes to Debbie Norton and the Upper Oxbow camp for supporting us while we were there. We enjoyed our stay and met several anglers, of both the salmon and bass groups who were all enjoying a great weekend.



Between the two branches of the Miramichi, Jason and I had some receivers to deploy further upstream than our main groups of equipment. Thanks to The Ledges, Vince Swayze, Salmon Brook Lodge and Black Brook Lodge for allowing us to use their camps and pools for this work. We'll be back in a few weeks, after the smolt run, to collect them and make sure they're out of the way of the anglers when the brights are in.

Jason and I also tagged 80 smolt at Rocky Brook camp, who support us every year with this work. It's a great place to go for this as the smolt wheel is right there and they give us a spot to tag indoors when it is raining. This little Pine Siskin came for to watch the proceedings and eventually had to be escorted outside. After tagging the fish in two days, we found a little time on the way home to make a couple of quick hikes through the beautiful country in that area.

Only the Restigouche and Grand Cascapedia River smolts left to tag this season. That should happen over the next couple of weeks and then we're working more locally for a while before mid-season download of the receivers begin.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Seven Staff, Four Rivers, Three Trucks, One day
by Graham on 

The work continues this week with just about everything happening at once. Typically, we deploy receivers and tag kelts early on and then work with the smolts a week or two later. Not in 2018 however. The second half of this week will see all three activities on the same day.



Eric and Michael, a summer student from Dalhousie, are tagging kelts on the Restigouche today and tomorrow. Conditions have been far from perfect and it has been delayed much later than usual but looks to be improving now. Mike was deploying the receiver array in the outer bay of Miramichi yesterday and will be heading up to the Baie des Chaleurs as soon as sea conditions permit. Meanwhile Ellen and Heather, another summer student from Dalhousie, were taking care of monitoring the downtream passage on the Magaguadavic River at the St. George Dam and beginning the weekly surveys of the Chamcook watershed.


Jason and I have been up and down both branches of the Miramichi, placing a few last receivers in upstream spots. We'll be tagging smolt on the Northwest for the next two days and expect to be doing the same on the Main Southwest for the rest of the long weekend. A big thanks to Upper Oxbow Adventures and Rocky Brook camp for all the help and accomodation. Both are great spots from which to start any day on the river.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Tagging Trials and Deployments
by Graham on 

Water conditions continue to hamper our kelt tagging efforts, but some progress is being made. We had to postpone the Restigouche kelt tagging until further notice. The river had dropped some, but not enough and then it climbed again before holding steady. The water is turbid and cold, making for terrible angling from all the reports we've received. We'll plan again, but will wait for conditions to improve significantly.



Meanwhile, the Miramichi is full of activity today. ASF biologist Eric and summer student Heather, from Dalhousie, are at Red Bank tagging kelts, earlier today they had three done. Hopefully by the end of tomorrow they will have another 22. Miramichi Salmon Association staff are a big part of the project, helping with tagging and organizing anglers as well as running the boat to collect fish from anglers. Fingers crossed it goes well despite less than optimal conditions.

ASF staff Jason and Mike were also on the Miramichi today. They deployed the receivers from Loggieville up to the forks and up each main branch of the river. This is the equipment that will 'listen' for and record the passing tags in kelts and smolts. Conditions on Miramichi Bay and Chaleur Bay are not suitable yet for deployments there, but the trucks are loaded and the gear ready for the minute we can get out on those waters. It's been a slow start to field season this year, but with everything going on with rivers in New Brunswick, it is no wonder.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Kelt Tagging Continues, But When?
by Graham on 

After the successful kelt tagging on the Cascapedia River last week, we'd hoped to continue the trend on the Northwest Miramichi and Restigouche Rivers this week. Conditions and the weather have other plans however. We will still go, but the difficult part is deciding when to hit the rivers. Most of the ice has moved out, but water is still high and dirty, making for poor fishing in several areas and possibly unsafe conditions.


As of today, we are planning to go Sunday and Monday to tag 25 kelts at Red Bank on the Northwest Miramichi. Rains tonight and tomorrow may change that, but fingers are crossed. The plans for the Restigouche are on hold until further notice. We may know more on Monday.

Anyone wishing to help us out with the angling for the kelts to be tagged can get in touch with me for the Restigouche at gchafe@asf.ca or Eric Brunsdon for the Miramichi at ebrunsdon@asf.ca.

Stay safe near the water, it isn't just the St. John river that is high and dangerous, at this time of year caution is needed around all waters.

 Graham Chafe, ASF Research.



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And It Begins...
by Graham on 

This week marks the first tagging events of the 2018 season. Eric and Ellen went up to the Grand Cascapedia River a few days ago to acoustically tag kelts. This is the first year we've tagged kelts in that river and hope for some good results. This project is being undertaken with the Cascapedia River Society and with big help from anglers from the Gesgapegiag First Nation. The folks on the river clearly knew when and where the fish would be, they caught and tagged 17 on the first day and the last 6 on the second. It was Ellen's first bit of field work since starting at the ASF a couple of months ago, not a bad first trip!



The tagged kelts will be recorded as they pass receivers that they placed in the river. Depending on ice conditions in the bay and when we can get the Chaleur line out, they will be recorded there as well. Fish destined to be alternate spawners are likely to cross the Strait of Belle Isle in early July and our receiver line there will be in place by then.It will be interesting to see how their timing compares to the nearby Restigouche River where we've been tagging black salmon for several years.



Speaking of the Restigouche, we'll be tagging kelts there in about a week and a half, sometime between the 5th and 8th of May, and several days earlier on the Northwest Miramichi. The dates are completely subject to change according to river conditions of course. If you're interested in angling to help us out there, please send me an email at gchafe@asf.ca and I'll add you to the mail-out for either or both rivers.

Graham Cjafe, ASF Research.

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Go Go Gadget Trawl
by Graham on 

In efforts to expand both our knowledge and reach in regards to migrating Atlantic salmon, we'll be headed up to the Strait of Belle Isle this summer for some interesting activities. We'll be investigating our ability to capture post-smolt as they move through the strait on their way to the North Atlantic. Any salmon captured will be have some measurements taken and samples of a few scales and a tiny bit of tissue. This will yield more knowledge about what conditions and changes these fish faced as they moved through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Additionally, knowing the size and weights of the fish allow us to plan for future technologies for potential tagging opportunities when they present themselves. Currently we can't track fish much past that point, but in the future it may well be an option and we'd like to be ready.



The trawl itself has a live box, adapted from some friendly researchers south of the border, that will move fish into a chamber out of the push of the water and be well-protected. Once the box is lifted aboard, the fish remain in the water for sorting and measurements. They will be released on their way after a short time on the vessel.

We recently went out for a test run on Passamaquoddy Bay on a boat and with some staff from the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, NB. Everything went very well, from deployment, through trawling and to recovery of the net. We couldn't have asked for much more in terms of performance from the net and live box. We're looking forward to seeing post-smolts in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Movie Night
by Graham on 

Over the past two weeks the Atlantic Salmon Federation various Nova Scotia and New Brunswick universities has been hosting screenings of the documentary "Lost at Sea". The film was directed by Dierdre Brennan who also organized a Kickstarter campaign to get the film made.



With footage and interviews from across the Atlantic salmon's range, the film takes viewers on a tour of habitats and issues concerning the species and its migration. Clips of interviews with salmon researchers interspersed with beautiful scenic shots keep the viewer tuned in throughout the film. Our own Jon Carr and Graham Chafe make an appearance in the film while examining scale samples from the Magaguadavic River in New Brunswick.

Three screenings have been held so far in the Maritimes, at Acadia, St. Francis Xavier and Mount Allison Universities. Great questions and discussions followed each screening highlighting people's interest in Atlantic salmon and  conservation issues. Next week, on the 15th of March, it will be shown at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The film begins at 7:30pm.

Here is a link to the Facebook page for the movie: https://www.facebook.com/atlanicsalmonlostatsea/


Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Farewell Clement.
by Graham on 

Ever year since 2012, ASF has hosted an intern from the Agrocampus Ouest near Rennes, France. From September to the end of January, a student lives in Saint Andrews and works with the ASF Research Department. This year, Clement Taron was our guest for five months. He was interested in fish in general and salmon specifically and so followed in the footsteps of Caroline, Marine and Alaia before him. He integrated well into our department and jumped right in to working with some of our data. He also enjoyed his time in Canada and traveled some within New Brunswick and Quebec. For some reason, all the interns from Agrocampus Ouest spend Christmas in New York City and Clement was no exception. Though the weather caused him a five day delay returning from New York, he was back at it in the beginning of January.



Clement was interested in the relationship between temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and post-smolt migration. He used our own temperature data, we always deploy a temperature logger on our receiver lines, as well as sea-surface temperature from satellite equipment that is available. It was an opportunity for him to develop skills in data analysis and writing and will contribute to the greater understanding of salmon movements.

We've already had contact from another student from the same institute who is interested in a placement with ASF for next year. After all, field season 2018 is fast approaching and September will be here before we know it.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Improving Passage
by Graham on 

With dams all over the province, NB Power is an important player for fish passage. While we all want and need our electricity, the sourcing of that power has large effects on the environment. Hydro power, often touted as renewable, has a particularly obvious effect on migratory fish populations. Its hard enough swimming upstream, but when a dam is in the way it changes things completely. Fish ladders, trap and truck and fish lifts all exist in New Brunswick and have varying degrees of success.



In an upcoming refit of the Milltown dam in St. Stephen, NB Power is planning to use newer technology for both upstream and downstream passage. The dam, the oldest continually running hydro plant in the country, will be outfitted with DIVE turbines from Germany that are apparently more fish friendly. However the real intent is for fish to use a new 'Hydroconnect' system. It is a double rotating hydropower screw in a large tube. It is kind of like two Archimedes screws, one inside the other and going in opposite directions to lift fish up or pass fish down.

While both the turbines and fish passage systems have been used in Europe, Milltown will be the first installations in North America. Good for NB Power for exploring the potential of new and emergent technology. It will take some tweaking and working with flows and timing  to figure it out, but if all goes well it will be an example for other dams in our area and beyond. If it doesn't work too well, the existing fish passage facilities will remain.

ASF staff and many others were at a stakeholder meeting yesterday, which was followed by one for the public in the evening. Several concerns were raised (will fish be able to find the Hydroconnect entrance amidst all the water in the tailrace for example) over the afternoon. I encourage anyone interested to attend other consultations and offer their input. Follow the links below for information on the turbines, the fish passage (the video is very helpful).

Turbines: http://www.dive-turbine.de/pages/en/start.php
Fish passage: http://www.hydroconnect.at/en/electricity-generating-fish-bypass/

Graham Chafe, ASF Reseaarch.

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Great Ideas, Great People, and Great Beer
by Graham on 

Great Ideas, Great People, and Great Beer

 

This week ASF staff attended the Atlantic Salmon Ecosystem Forum in Orono Maine. The two day event focused on the fresh and saltwater ecology of Atlantic salmon and the barriers that arise when restoring and conserving the species. “Are we moving the needle?” Was the theme of the conference and experts shared the shortcomings and the trials and tribulations experienced in projects focusing on habitat restoration, climate change, and freshwater and marine survival.


ASF Biologist Jason Daniels presented his newly published results on quantifying Striped Bass predation on Atlantic Salmon smolts within the Miramichi River. This paper has now been published in The Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and represents a novel technique in quantifying predation rates through acoustic technology. The journal article can be found in the link below.


The forum brought experts from the west and east coasts of North America to share ideas, projects, and the best methods for the future. There is still a long way to go in restoring Atlantic Salmon, but the enthusiasm of everyone attending and the amazing success stories shared shows that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

 



You can find the article here:

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