Abegweit Conservation Society

January 3, 2017


For the Abegweit Conservation Society the discovery of a unique Atlantic salmon population that may contain ancestral genetics of the original PEI Atlantic salmon is very exciting, especially given the cultural and ceremonial significance of Atlantic salmon to the Mi’kmaq people.

An arm of the Abegweit First Nation, the Abegweit Conservation Society is working on a project called “Foundation Knowledge Building for Future PEI Salmon”, and has been granted $15,000 in funding from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation.

The project is a product of an Atlantic salmon DNA study carried out by Laval University that analyzed 9,142 tissue samples from Atlantic salmon collected in 149 sampling locations of the eastern United States and Canada. In 2012, the provincial fish and wildlife office coordinated the collection of DNA samples from 5 PEI Rivers for the study. The preliminary results of the analysis were published in 2014 and it was revealed that while Atlantic salmon populations in the eastern Atlantic region are closely related and could be grouped into 29 regional strains there are however Atlantic salmon from two eastern PEI Rivers, North Lake Creek and Cross Creek, that stood out as a separate cluster and could be considered “unique”.

“The overarching goal of this project is to monitor and collect essential information on the genetically distinct Atlantic salmon population with the intent of applying the information towards appropriate management, protection and conservation plans, guidelines, and recommendations,” said Rebecca Hersom-Petersen, a project manager with Abegweit.

“It is also hoped that further explorations will be done into how this population could provide insight into the future survival of all Atlantic salmon on PEI. The project also has broad implications for other Atlantic salmon populations in the Maritimes as it will provide insight into Atlantic salmon life history.”

One goal of particular importance to the Abegweit Conservation Society is the building of capacity within the aboriginal community in managing watersheds for Atlantic salmon conservation.

Hersom-Petersen said they are very encouraged by the progress made so far on this project.

“During the summer, the Abegweit field crew worked alongside the Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation on stream rehabilitation activities in North Lake and Cross Creek.  During the fall months, the crew worked together with other watershed groups and the provincial government carrying out electrofishing surveys to collect the tissue samples. These activities provided mentorship and training to Abegweit members while helping to foster relationships that will aid in future Atlantic salmon conservation projects.”

“Perhaps, one of the greatest things gained during this project is the importance of partnerships and working together. This is a grassroots project initiated by a First Nation group in conjunction with community watershed groups, by reaching out and working together we are completing a project with value and implications for the future of Atlantic salmon on PEI.”