As reported in the news media, DFO has declined to issue a permit to release several thousand mature adult Atlantic salmon to the Northwest Miramichi River this fall for the 3rd year in a row from the SAS project being conducted at the Miramichi Salmon Conservation Centre. The adult salmon were captured as wild smolts (2 and 3 year old parr that are migrating to the ocean) and kept at the hatchery for 2 or 3 years protecting them from the massive mortality that currently exists in the estuary and ocean. On average 98% would perish on this journey and for example, 5,000 smolts going to the ocean would produce about 100 adult salmon returning to the river to spawn. The same 5,000 smolts going to the hatchery would produce 4,000 adult salmon returning to the river to spawn producing millions of eggs to repopulate the river. There are many stories and videos on our website that explain the SAS program, but DFO has effectively killed this project without a real plan to increase the number of adult salmon returning to the river, which hasn’t met it’s spawning requirements in 18 of the past 21 years. The salmon return so far in 2019 indicates another year of not making the spawning target.
The MSA is a member of CAST, but we have not had a seat on the Executive Committee for over a year and a half and are not privy to the long term plan for the SAS program. We entered into a written agreement to provide the hatchery facilities to CAST for the SAS project and in return they have been paying the expenses to operate the facility. I personally believe the SAS project is one of the best ways to quickly restore a salmon population in crisis, but it will only work if the issues that caused the problem in the first place can be addressed. The problems in our river, estuary and marine environment have to be fixed so a salmon population can be self-sustaining after restoration. We know what many of the issues are and what the solution is, but it requires government to take action or step aside and let others do the work. CAST was created out of a lack of government action to reverse the serious plight of the Atlantic salmon. A committed group of scientists and citizens that developed a world class program has been stopped by bureaucracy and a lack of urgency. The Northwest Miramichi River is at the verge of losing its Atlantic salmon population and while people argue about the best way forward, doing nothing means no more fish.
Below are some links to various stories about the SAS program and the debates.
Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow's Website. A joint project to stop the decline of Atlantic salmon. Click here to write a letter to your MP.