Federal government considering protecting Atlantic salmon through Species at Risk Act

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Federal government considering protecting Atlantic salmon through Species at Risk Act
WATCH ABOVE: One Sackville group says it’s worried the salmon population at a local river will never recover following months of dry weather, and, as Global’s Steve Silva reports, there are also reports of dwindling populations in other Nova Scotia communities – Oct 18, 2016

There hasn’t been much improvement for the salmon population in the Sackville rivers since this year’s dry summer, according to one community group.

“The rains from Matthew last week really, really helped, [bring] the levels up … but I believe a lot of the damage has been done,” said Walter Regan, president of the Sackville Rivers Association.

He referenced the water levels, which dropped significantly over the summer due to dry weather.

“Due to low waters, that means the salmon cannot spawn, so there are no populations one year, two years out. That’s going to have a real negative effect,” he said.

Regan said the group counted more than 700 salmon in a year in the 1990s in the rivers; last year and 2016 (so far), there were 33 and 13, respectively.

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READ MORE: Group braces for ‘really bad year’ for salmon population in Sackville River

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Lewis Hinks, director of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island programs at the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said that there are indications that some parts of the province, including Cape Breton, have salmon populations doing better than before but not on Nova Scotia’s South Shore and eastern communities.

“We really won’t know the numbers until at the end of the year when all of the assessments are done, that’s the sad part,” he said.

“In many cases the fish can wait and wait and wait but, at some point, they’re going to give up and move out back to sea, which puts them back into that part of the field out there. We certainly have some concerns.”

Lei Harris, the head of the salmon section of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said salmon populations are monitored using index rivers.

One of those is the LaHave River; its salmon population has dropped about 90 per cent since the 1980s. Loss of habitat, illegal fishing, and issues with survival at sea have contributed to the decline.

“Currently, the federal government is considering whether or not to protect these populations under the Species at Risk Act.”

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When that decision will be made is not yet known.

“It’s sad that we got to that point, but we really need to do as much as we can to preserve the fish and bring them back wherever possible,” said Hinks.

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