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Research - In the Field Search  

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And They're Off!
by Graham on 

ASF Biologist Jason Daniels and a load of gear for the Miramichi.Today marks the first day of field work after weeks of preparation. The crew has been hard at work gathering gear, programming receivers, measuring line and tying rigs for deployments. Jason Daniels and Mike Best are headed north this afternoon, to the Miramichi where they will be deploying acoustic receivers in both branches of the river. This is part of our continuing smolt and kelt tracking project.  Once the ice is cleared, we'll be putting out equipment in Miramichi Bay as well as several locations for tracking Restigouche and Grand Cascapedia salmon.

ASF and Miramichi Salmon Association staff will be tagging kelts at Red Bank on the Northwest Miramichi on Sunday and Monday. The effort depends on the help of volunteer anglers who have come out in good numbers in the last few years and are critical to the success of the project, without them we wouldn't be able to tag fish at all. With the temperature set to climb and the clouds depart, it should be a great couple of days to spend on the river. Soon after that, we'll be looking for the right timing to acoustically tag kelts and smolts on the Restigouche and smolts on the Northwest and Main Southwest Miramichi rivers.

So if you see us on the river, stop and say hello. We're always eager for news and thoughts from anglers and are happy to show people how all this equipment that they read about works in real life.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Arrivals and Departures.
by Graham on 


The snow is disappearing, the rains are falling and the kelt are looking toward the sea this week. We will soon be out on the Northwest Miramichi River looking for kelt to tag with both acoustic and satellite tags. It is part of our continued research on their movements, timing and survival through the river, estuary, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and even further. Before the tags go in, the receivers must go out. It is a big job but fortunately Mike Best’s season with ASF has begun again. He is hard at work preparing the rigging necessary to deploy acoustic receivers throughout both main branches of the river as well as at the exit to the Gulf. Of course there are more to go once that is done, the Baie des Chaleurs, Restigouche and Strait of Belle Isle receivers also need to be deployed in a timely fashion.  Other members of the Research Team will be tagging kelt and smolt on the Restigouche and smolt on the Northwest and Main Southwest branches of the Miramichi.

Sad to say that just as our season is heating up, we are losing one of our biologists. Michelle Charest has been with us for only a year but has become an integral part of the team. She’s led ASF’s participation in the Tag Retention study and has been involved in basically everything else we’ve been doing throughout the past year. She is as good with the data we accumulate as she is avoiding her picture being posted in the Research Blog. Thanks for your help and hard work Michelle, best of luck with your travels. 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.



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Looking Out for Salmon in Nova Scotia
by Graham on 

Graham Chafe presenting to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association in Halifax.Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Annual General Meeting of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA). The NSSA is a group of dedicated people and affiliate organizations that work very hard to give Atlantic salmon the protection and attention they and their habitat deserve. Formed in 1963, this charitable organization has been working towards responsible management and conservation of native Atlantic Salmon and trout stocks in Nova Scotia ever since. They are contending with issues such as habitat problems, acid rain and aquaculture.

The meeting gave an update on the various projects the NSSA is undertaking as well as reports from some affiliate groups. . They are active in the Fish Friends program, where school children learn about Atlantic salmon and the environment through the placement of salmon eggs in the classroom. Another great program from the NSSA is the Adopt-a-Stream program where community groups improve the habitat and condition of local streams. Restorations and clean-ups are conducted on waterways throughout Nova Scotia resulting in a greater sense of community and connection between citizens and the environment. It was a pleasure to meet the people involved and learn about the great projects and work they are doing.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.


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The Research Team's Newest Member.
by Graham on 

ASF's newest biologist, Jason Daniels.This week the ASF Research Team welcomes its newest member, biologist Jason Daniels. Jason is completing his MSc. in Biology through UNB Saint John. His thesis has to do with spatial model decay. He most recently worked at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans here in St. Andrews and previously on the west coast with Pacific salmon. He’s from New Brunswick originally and grew up on Hammond River. He is also an avid sea kayaker and spends a lot of time outdoors, he should fit right in.


Things are heating up for field season now, and he will soon be off all over the province taking part in all of our projects. He’s already busy getting gear ready this week and helping with our tag retention study sampling. The first field work to happen will be deploying receivers in the Miramichi, often cold and rainy work that is just right for the new guy.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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The field season approaches
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

The preparation for the 2015 field season has begun.

Part of the preparation includes dusting off the acoustic tagging equipment and dusting off our tagging crew. This week the ASF research team, including our newest biologist Jason Daniels, spent a day practicing our tagging techniques.

We were joined by Carol-Anne Gillis, biologist with the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council, and Holly Labadie, biologist with the Miramichi Salmon Association. Steve Tinker, ASF biologist, provided an overview of the tagging techniques and shared some tagging tricks and wisdom he has gained over the 15 years he has been tagging.



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Location, Location, Location.
by Graham on 

An image from marinetraffic.com of shipping int he Bay of Fundy on February 12, 2015. On the website, the ship icons can be clicked for more information.One of the amazing things about the internet age is the tools that are available to the researchers and the public. We’ve all used the various map sites and Google Earth is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of areas we work and play in. Another tool that is interesting for the public and useful for the researcher is the Automated Identification System (AIS) on ships. It is a tracking system used on commercial cargo and fishing vessels, it is also now beginning to be used by smaller pleasure craft. Using internet access, anyone can access all kinds of ships near to home or on the other side of the world.


Originally designed as a safety system, AIS equipment broadcasts information about the ship including identification, position, speed and course to others in the area. It was meant to supplement radar for collision avoidance.  Added to the internet of things and now a person can watch from their desktop as tankers go in and out of the terminal at Saint John. With smartphones, when you’re one the water and want to know about a fishing boat you see, you can pull up the app and, if they have AIS equipment aboard, find out the size, country of registration, type and sometimes other information.


Where this tool becomes useful for fisheries researchers is the ability to monitor vessels for illegal fishing activity, pollution from bilge dumping or presence in protected waters. For our purposes, as the tools develop, we’ll be able to look through historical data to watch for the presence of vessels in areas of concern in the salmon’s migration on the high seas. Along with tracking data and information from our satellite tags we may identify some issues with more precision than was previously possible. Other groups have already identified illegal fishing and dumping of bilge water and identified the boats involved in far-flung areas. This tactic may prove to be useful. It won’t likely be the silver bullet to the dangers the salmon face, but it is another tool in the box.


If you’re interested in this technology and want to observe shipping traffic in your area, there are many apps available for your phone. There are also websites that broadcast the information in as close to real-time as they can. In both cases, simply search for Automated Identification System and shipping traffic and you’ll see the options.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Evaluation and Evolution
by Graham on 

Icebergs can be in the Strait of Belle Isle as ASF equipment and may cause damage.Mid-winter is a period when it seems at a glance like the research team has all the time in the world. Fall is well behind us and spring is nowhere in sight. And though we share the feeling with those waiting to cast a line, that spring may never arrive, we know it will sneak up on us and we had better be prepared. We have projects in various states right now. Many, such as monitoring the Magaguadavic fishway and local stream temperatures, are seasonal and repeat more or less the same every year. Others recur every year but with constant changes and tweaking of strategies, equipment and timing. Our smolt and kelt tracking project is one such effort.


While the ASF has been tracking salmon for a long time now, ever changing technology and conditions as well as new information demands that after every season, we re-assess our efforts with an eye for improvement.  Considering that a major goal of the tracking program is to discover salmon survival through various habitats, we must ensure that our project design and implementation is functional and efficient. To that end, we are planning a few changes to our program for the 2015 season. If all goes well, we will deploy a second line of receivers in the Strait of Belle Isle that will increase efficiency in a very challenging environment. Closer to home, we are hoping to use new technology to further our knowledge and understanding of predation events that impact smolt populations during downstream migration. Evolving technology and increasing our efforts will help to bring further understanding to the plight of the Atlantic salmon.


 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Watershed Moments.
by Graham on 

The Saint John RIver Watershed.Winter is a great time of year for conferences and workshops. While there is plenty to do outside at this time of year, it is a little easier to get people together when they are not all off in different directions. This week, I attended a conference called “Running with the Current”, put on by the New Brunswick Environmental Network. Representatives from watershed and conservation groups from across the province got together to make connections, learn about what other groups were doing and hear from a few expert speakers.


In addition to seeing examples of restoration work being carried out on various rivers, there was a lot of great discussion on the management of watersheds. What direction New Brunswick should take in that governance and how all of these stakeholders would like to fit into that plan. It is a large and complicated topic, but there is a large and capable group of people looking to protect New Brunswick waters. And after all, what is good for the water, is good for the salmon.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Winter Works
by Graham on 

Winter on Passamoquoddy Bay.As the winter keeps rolling along, and the deep freezes come and go, the ASF Research Team is working away preparing for next year. We’re still analysing data from 2014 and fitting it in to our time-series of projects, but the focus this week happens to be the 2015 season. It will likely see most of the same projects continue, with a few modifications here and there.


Our flagship tracking project will continue of course, and we may expand or alter some of our receiver strategies to reflect changing conditions and accuracy. Next season will likely see an increase in receivers in the Miramichi in a further search for problem areas for the migrating smolt as we did last year in the Restigouche.  Our temperature monitoring of southwest New Brunswick rivers may turn into a year-round effort instead of a three-season venture with the addition of small, winter-friendly installations. Having so many years of data from the same locations is an interesting look at possible effects of climate change in addition to keeping an eye on salmon habitat.


This is an on-going process for the rest of the winter, and will alternate with analysis of last year’s data and other tasks. We’re also hiring a new biologist in the coming month. Lots of great people applied and it will take a bit of time to get through the process and find the newest member of our little team. Whoever it is, they’ll be busy from the start, I’ve got a list of things they’re behind on already!

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Stand Up and Be Heard
by Graham on 

The survey can be filled out on any computer with internet access. Where that computer is, is up to you.

As 2015 gets under way, and many people are staying in to avoid the cold, you might think that the salmon have been forgotten until the spring. For many people, salmon and fishing are never far from their minds.  As we think over last year and look ahead to the next, we may find we have something to say about our experiences and the experiences we would like in the future. To that end, there are two online surveys that are still open that should be of interest to salmon fans, whether or not they are anglers.


The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has put together two surveys, one specific to Atlantic salmon and one to striped bass. The online consultations are being used to collect information on angling habits and preferences as well as opinions on management strategies and tag and possession numbers available to anglers. They only take a few minutes to complete and offer a good chance to add your voice to the conservation. The following link will take you to the right place to begin: http://www.glf.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Gulf/FAM/Recreational-Fisheries. Several hundred people have already completed them and they are open until January 15th, so there is time left.

 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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