Interprovincial Profile

April 7, 2016

Not too warm, and not too cold; the water temperature needs to be just right to in order for Atlantic salmon to thrive.

Monitoring the temperature in numerous waterways is one of the projects the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) has on the go.

In 2014 the organization received a three year grant totalling $75,000 from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation. The project involves building a water temperature monitoring network in Canadian Atlantic salmon rivers.

Atlantic salmon is a stenothermal fish – that means it can tolerate a relatively narrow range of temperatures. And although water temperature is monitored in some rivers, Eastern Canada does not have a structured river temperature network. There is no concerted effort to provide consistent thermal information that is relevant for fishery management. The INRS team is working on establishing a network of water temperature monitoring stations with centralized data management. Selected rivers in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador will be part of the project.

The INRS team notes, “that the temperature of the river is one of the hydro-climatic factors determining the health and survival of Atlantic salmon at different stages of life. However, water temperature is monitored only in few rivers in Eastern Canada and these measurements are not fully structured within a network. This lack of basic information may limit our ability to send out thermal exceedance alerts, for example.”

The end goal of the project is to construct an optimal and sustainable temperature monitoring network with the participation of stakeholders that delivers key management and conservation information for Atlantic salmon and its habitat. That will be achieved by following three main objectives – coordinating various organizations concerned with water temperature issues in Atlantic salmon rivers, establishing a network of water temperature monitoring stations with a centralized database, and providing a common monitoring protocol.

To date, the INRS team has identified key partners acting on a large number of salmon rivers in Eastern Canada and has informed them about the project. These various agencies have agreed to participate in the network and to share their data. The team intends to continue the network expansion next year.  

The database is one of the outcomes of the project. So far, the INRS has been able to collect data from two provincial agencies (Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) and Direction de l’Expertise Hydrique (DEH) from the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte aux Changements Climatiques (MDDELCC)), Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, INRS, National Defense monitoring stations and from local watershed groups such as Miramichi River Environmental Assessment Committee (MREAC) and Groupe des Bassins versants de la Baie des Chaleurs (BVBC).

As of December 1, 2015, the database contained 304,058 daily temperature data entries from 478 monitoring stations (opened and closed stations) distributed over 186 rivers and 62 watersheds.  

The INRS team is pleased that awareness about river temperatures and its impact on recreational fisheries is growing, noting that the networking of people sharing information and the centralization of data within a main database comes at a right time.  

The network and its database is expected to grow year over the next year. It is also expected that the network and its dataset will help to identify trends in water temperature, draw links between climate, watershed activities and water temperature, and promote new management strategies.