MIRAMICHI, N.B. – Federal and provincial governments made a commitment Saturday to see a combined $4.7 million go towards efforts to preserve and restore Atlantic salmon stocks.
The Collaborative for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow or CAST will launch the program which involves a number of research projects over a five- to seven-year period.
Atlantic salmon stocks have been on a steep decline, with now only three per cent of young salmon that leave the New Brunswick water system actually returning.
Those connected to the industry say help was needed.
“We had to do something to at least try to bring this river back the way it was,” CAST President Brian Moore said. “We’ll probably never see the amount of salmon from 40 or 50 years ago but we have to keep it as a healthy river.”
One of the aims is to track the progress of salmon with genetic testing to see which ones return to New Brunswick waters.
“We’ll be able to tell whether the salmon that we have raised are the salmon that are actually coming back,” Moore explained.
Atlantic salmon are also an important part of the provincial economy. Miramichi-area MLA and New Brunswick Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser says the GDP value of the recreational salmon fishery in New Brunswick is close to $40 million.
Nineteen scientists will be taking part in this preservation and recovery effort. Dr. Tommi Linnansaari of the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick says the scale of the commitment is unprecedented.
“I’ve worked on Atlantic salmon in a number of countries, both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and I’ve certainly never seen a project this size of this calibre before,” Linnansaari said.
He says Atlantic salmon numbers are in a deep hole but he has a positive attitude moving forward.
“The reasons, they’re not probably easy to solve but it’s not a right approach to roll out and die,” he said. “You have to keep on fighting, you have to keep on working.”