Subscribe & stay up-to-date with ASF


St. Mary’s River Atlantic salmon revival still in jeopardy even after decades of hard work


HALIFAX – When you see environmental stories on the news, most often it’s bad news – biodiversity and habitat loss, pollution and species at risk.

But concerted conservation efforts can make a difference and decades of stewardship is paying dividends for the wild Atlantic salmon returning to eastern Nova Scotia’s St. Mary’s River and it may soon pay off for anglers too.

“People on this river will tell you ‘should we be reopening a catch and release fishery on this river?'” Tom Cheney said.

Decades of stewardship is paying off for the volunteers of the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA), like president Scott Beaver and director Deirdre Green.

“Our group has been doing a lot of hard work for 42 years now,” Beaver said.

Green started angling in 2015, which gave her a new appreciation of Nova Scotia’s wild places.

“I think it’s important to work to restore our rivers because we want them to be healthy and productive and beautiful aesthetically for future generations to enjoy,” Green said. “And it’s mind-boggling to me stepping out of HRM and coming to an area like the St. Mary’s River how you are transported a beautiful pristine natural paradise.”

A new video released along with the Atlantic Salmon Federation documents how concerted efforts can help assist the species, which has disappeared altogether from so many maritime rivers.

The St. Mary’s River is about 250 kilometres and long flows through five counties — Guysborough, Antigonish, Colchester, Pictou and Halifax Counties.

Improving habitat has been a major focus.

“That’s rock structures, holding these spots for Atlantic salmon, spots of refuge,” Beaver said. “That’s 23 km or river work. More work to do, but we’re very happy with where we’re at and what we’ve accomplished.”

But pressures remain on the wild Atlantic salmon, like over-logging, a proposed gold mine, and acid rain.

“We just started liming last year,” Beaver said. “Over 200 acres with about 850 tonnes of lime to bring down that acid problem that we’re having.”

The SMRA hopes continued improvements will make it possible to open up a catch and release fishery much like the one that exists on Cape Breton’s Margaree River.

“Perhaps we can open up a recreational model for the future,” Beaver said.