Community Spotlight: Maritime Aboriginal People’s Council
Last month, the AWN team had the opportunity to tag along with Gavin Scott and James Veres from the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council, or MAPC, to check in on a set of in-stream Atlantic Salmon incubation sites. Though we were certainly expecting a great day filled with learning opportunities and new experiences, we ended up witnessing an unprecedented number of emergences for the young salmon!
While we made the hike up to Matheson Brook, the first site of the day, Gavin explained to our group that the harsh conditions experienced by the salmon eggs in the icy stream through the winter meant that only the strongest salmon could survive. Gavin’s method of incubating salmon has had an average survival rate of 7-8%, so we knew we might only see a few salmon ready to be released.
As Gavin started to tally the salmon, however, those expectations were blown out of the water! We counted each small salmon one at a time, with growing excitement, as we passed 10% survival, 20% survival, until the final tally showed an unprecedented survival rate of 34.8%! “This is what makes it all worth it for me,” Gavin remarked as we tallied the newly hatched salmon, known as alevin.
Since 2020, Gavin Scott has been working with MAPC’s Atlantic Salmon projects, first to study egg incubation baskets, and now assessing environmental conditions of rivers where Atlantic Salmon are found, and the effects these conditions have.
Based on the results of water quality monitoring, Gavin’s team deemed the site at Matheson Brook to be ideal for this stage in the Atlantic Salmon life cycle. It has consistent pH levels around 7 (salmon prefer waters between 6.5-8), and temperatures below 18°C – perfect conditions for salmon to thrive. The area is quite biodiverse – we were even visited by a curious hummingbird! eDNA testing performed by MAPC also points to a native salmon population, an especially positive sign.
The baskets that Gavin’s project works with consist of a tube with wire mesh panels and sealed ends that can unscrew, one of which wedges into the rocky bed of the brook. This design allows water to flow freely through the baskets, creating ‘in-situ’ conditions for the fish developing within, while containing them to allow for observation and accurate survival counts. The design is also very accessible – it uses materials that are easy to come by and inexpensive, meaning that this method could easily be adapted by watershed groups across Atlantic Canada!
Eggs are added to the baskets in late autumn, after which they spend the winter season developing. If all goes well, they emerge from their egg as alevin once the water reaches favourable temperatures. By protecting the eggs in baskets, but maintaining water flow through the mesh, the salmon are given a significant advantage, developing to be stronger, with greater likelihood of reaching adulthood, than those that develop in hatcheries.
Article by Siena Armstrong