St. Mary’s students pitch in to build river’s salmon population

·2 min read

GLENELG – With the release of several adult salmon spawned for hardiness in the wild, students from St. Mary’s Education Centre Academy (SMECA) recently joined salmon biologists and riverkeepers to help build a stronger breed of fish for the St. Mary’s River.

“We were thrilled to have Alisha Grant’s Grade 8 science class attend our salmon release on the St. Mary’s,” said Scott Beaver, president of the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA), about the Oct. 27 event at Silvers Pool near Glenelg. “The bad weather held off and the students certainly got involved.”

The program, spearheaded and administered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in association with SMRA, is designed to “to test an intervention strategy to maintain genetic diversity and prevent extinction of this population [of salmon],” said Louise de Mestral, Genetics Unit Lead, Salmon Section at DFO in Dartmouth.

Last month’s adult fish release was the final stage in a process which began in 2016, she explained. “Individual [fish] were collected from the wild as juveniles or adults and spawned in captivity at the Coldbrook Biodiversity Facility [Annapolis Valley] following proven fish culture and genetic management techniques to preserve genetic diversity and prevent extirpation.”

The initiative is similar to one DFO initially helped develop, and now operates, to support endangered Atlantic Salmon in the inner Bay of Fundy. Unlike traditional fish stocking, it more closely resembles captive breeding and rearing programs for endangered species in zoos, using best practices and genetic management techniques.

“The program uses state-of-the-art tools to maintain genetic diversity and prevent extirpation of this culturally and ecologically important species,” de Mestral said.

Added Beaver: “We are fortunate St. Mary’s River has maintained a relatively biodiverse and healthy ecosystem over the years … While the planet is in a climate and wildlife crisis, we are more than happy, even somewhat obligated, to contribute to a partnership with DFO on projects like [this].”

As for the 18 SMECA students who pitched in, he said: “We talked about biodiversity being a word we use to describe the variety of all life on earth. When we look at biodiversity, we’re looking at the assortment of ecosystems, its species, and their genetics.”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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