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Lawyer wants tougher regulations after escaped aquaculture salmon found in Maritime rivers

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Farmed Atlantic salmon were found in a Nova Scotia hatchery among adult fish collected from the Gaspereau River.

Staff at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Coldbrook Biodiversity Facility in Nova Scotia spotted the two rogue aquaculture fish among seven other adult wild fish.

Suspected aquaculture escapements were isolated inside the hatchery and scale samples were taken to confirm their origin. Once the fish were determined to be escapees, they were euthanized because the protocol does not allow the fish to be released.

This is not the first time that escaped salmon have been caught this year. Nine aquaculture fish have been found in rivers in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine.

According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, four aquaculture salmon were caught in a dam on the Union River.

Scientists from the Atlantic Salmon Federation also found three aquaculture salmon trying to enter the Magaguadavic River near the parish of Saint George.

This worries conservation advocates like Abby Pond for the future of Atlantic salmon.

Pictured here is a Nova Scotia aquaculture site. (Submitted by Tom Cheney)

“Their populations are extremely low and if thousands of fish return to a river, if an escaped fish from aquaculture enters the population and reproduces and its genetic material enters the population, it is detrimental,” said the New Atlantic Salmon Federation. regional director of Brunswick, in an interview.

Pond said that a farmed salmon is a different genetic strain than a wild Gaspereau River fish.

“They are generally found in the Bay of Fundy and are from the Saint John River stock, so the stock would have been from a different genetic strain than the Gaspereau River in the living gene bank program. ”

The problem is, if domesticated salmon mate with wild fish, their offspring will be in poorer health, which could lead to population decline and even collapse.

Pond wants better regulations on where exactly escaped salmon are coming from.

Abby Pond is the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s Regional Director for New Brunswick Programs. (Tom Moffatt / Atlantic Salmon Federation)

It’s hard to follow now and Pond attributes this to lack of reporting and weak regulations.

“The [federal] the government is committed to reducing the number of aquaculture escapes. But there are inconsistencies between the provincial and federal governments in tracking, reporting and announcing when these escapes occur. ”

In late August, a notice from the New Brunswick Registrar of Aquaculture reported a torn net in a Cooke cage in Seeley’s Cove, Charlotte County.

But Pond notes: “This escapee could have lived in the wild for who knows how long and migrated to this river. So it is very difficult right now due to lack of regulations in place or lack of enforcement to be able to track exactly where these escapees are coming from. ”

Aquaculture escapee collected at the Magaguadavic fish pass after being euthanized. (Neville Crabbe / Atlantic Salmon Federation)

Problem from the start

Pond said the problem has been around since the industry was founded.

The geographic features of the Bay of Fundy, its dynamic tides and the frequency of storms increase the risk of damaging open-net fish pens, creating the possibility for farmed fish to escape.

“We are not against aquaculture, we are for responsible aquaculture … Ideally, we would like to see a transition from these open net pens to terrestrial aquaculture. So that would never even become a problem,” he said. declared Pond.

“We can feed people in a sustainable way without further endangering our critically endangered populations.”

Pond said there are no monitoring programs in these rivers to specifically monitor escapees – only when fish are encountered in other searches are they recorded.

“We would like to see a strong monitoring program in place, especially on rivers that have populations at risk.”

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