Miramichi Leader

Inner Bay of Fundy River is in Distress

Nathan DeLong

Sep 23, 2019
Advocating for conservation and protecting wild Atlantic salmon is old hat for Sonja Wood.
The activist and singer-songwriter from Hantsport, N.S., has spent close to two decades calling for governments to improve fish passage in Nova Scotia rivers, among other causes.
Wood is now taking her fight to another level. With support from her husband, Chris Mansky, she began heading from Hantsport to Ottawa on an electric mobility scooter to raise awareness of issues affecting salmon.
Wood left Nova Scotia Sept. 3. Her trip is expected to take 30 to 40 days.
"The federal government may be on hiatus for the election [on Oct. 21], but we're not waiting for an election," Wood said while in Miramichi Sept. 16.
"The problems salmon are facing aren't on hiatus."
Recreational fishery data from the Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team suggests there were at least 32 rivers in the inner Fundy region that have supported wild salmon populations in the past.
Another 10 rivers and streams were found to have produced salmon, including the Avon River -which is blocked at its mouth by a rock and earth fill causeway dating back to 1970.
Wood said that river is among the waterways identified as a priority for salmon recovery by the Inner Bay ofFundy recovery team, and its tributaries need attention too.
She said the river has had little to no salmon passage for years. "Over the past 20 or more years, we've watched other groups pop up who are concerned about these rivers that are salmon producing rivers," said Wood, who co-owns a fossil museum with her husband.
"These are all vital rivers for salmon to get back into their habitats."
Wood, who chairs the Friends ofthe Avon River environmental lobby group, said she's calling for the removal of barriers obstructing fish passage in the Avon watershed and others.
She said that would include opening the causeway on the Avon at Windsor and the nearby village ofFalmouth.
"Our river is in distress," said Wood. "Salmon are equally distressed."
Wood said she's also concerned about how highway upgrades near the Avon may not allow the river to flow freely.
She is calling for changes in forestry practices, along with no new river barriers and a stop to water pollution and disturbing riverbanks.
Wood is opposed to open-pit mining near waterways and raising fish in tanks to restock rivers.
Wood has petitioned for 20 years for the Avon River to be opened to free tidal flow so salmon can access their habitats and spawning grounds.
In addition to Nova Scotia, Wood said, she's also aware of the challenges facing the species in the Miramichi River, Petitcodiac River and other watersheds throughout Atlantic Canada.
"We're out here, and we're making our way to Ottawa," said Wood, who was paralyzed in 1985 after a car crash.
"We're not waiting for an election. We won't take no for an answer [to a meeting with government officials] about these issues."
While in Miramichi, Wood and Mansky met briefly with Pat Finnigan, the federal Miramichi-Grand Lake Liberal candidate and incumbent MP, to discuss their concerns.
Finnigan said issues affecting salmon are a concern throughout North America and his party has done its best to address them while in government.
"The salmon populations have been dwindling forever, and the numbers so far [on the Miramichi] this summer are not encouraging," said Finnigan, a Rogersville businessman.
"We're all working to find solutions. There are different proposals on the table, and we're trying to find the best way."
Finnigan said projects along the Miramichi system to improve conditions for salmon include creating better pools, protecting riverbanks and adding buffer zones.
He said many groups have different ideas on what should be done to stem declining salmon stocks, but everyone wants to see populations built up before they reach extinction, like they have in some Bay ofFundy tributaries.
"We're not there yet, but we want to make sure that we don't get there by propping up the numbers and doing what we can," said Finnigan.

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