Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance

May 4, 2014

“It’s too hot!” While a person probably would never say that about the water in the Petitcodiac River, you might hear it from a wild Atlantic salmon, if they could talk! Cold water fish like salmon don’t do well in water that is warmer than 22 degrees Celsius, so last summer one of the initiatives undertaken by the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance was to install stream temperature data loggers in key tributaries of the river to help find the cool water refuges that salmon might use during the hot and dry summer months.

The project, which received $14,000 in funding from ASCF, also included fish monitoring and restocking components.

“This project is part of an ongoing collaborative effort with the Petitcodiac Fish Recovery Coalition (PFRC), of which the PWA is a founding member,” says Jacques Mazerolle, PWA biologist. The PFRC is comprised of 11 like-minded groups including First Nation, angling and non-profit environmental organizations, all working to revitalize Inner Bay of Fundy (IBoF) Atlantic salmon stocks and other fish populations in the Petitcodiac watershed.

“IBoF Atlantic salmon are officially an endangered population,” explains Mazerolle. “Some 20 percent of historical adult IBoF spawners were of Petitcodiac River origin, but they were completely extirpated when the causeway was built across the river. With the causeway now opened, the Coalition is working to bring wild Atlantic salmon back to the Petitcodiac watershed.”

That’s where the restocking effort comes in. Over the 2011 and 2012 seasons some 341,000 fry and 700 ready-to-spawn adults were released into the Petitcodiac watershed. This year the PWA, working closely with fellow Coalition member Fort Folly Habitat Recovery (FFHR), released an additional 157 ready to-spawn-adults, 150 post-smolt juveniles and approximately 100 post-spawned adults.

To determine the success rate of their restocking efforts, the researchers also monitored areas of the watershed using a box trap, fyke traps and electrofishing.

“We were pleased to find a good number of salmon in the watershed,” Mazerolle reports, “particularly in Little River, where we netted adults that came from the Live Gene Bank facility in Mactaquac, NB, and had been tagged and released in 2012.

“Our electrofishing activities produced exactly 100 salmon: 72 young-of-the-year in the Little River, where ready-to-spawn adults had been released in 2012, and 28 parr in the Pollett River, where we had released unfed fry in 2011.”

As for water temperatures and levels, the researchers ran into a little problem when one of their four data loggers disappeared (likely washed away in high current) and high water left another too deeply immersed to be retrieved. The other two loggers showed that water temperature of Anagance River never exceeded 22⁰C, while the temperature in the Little River only exceeded the 22⁰ mark during the month of August and one day in September.”

All in all, the results of their 2013 project were very encouraging to the PWA and the entire Petitcodiac Fish Recovery Coalition.

“There is alot more work to do, of course, including the development of a sub-watershed management plan for the Petitcodiac River,” says Mazerolle. “If we can do that, and continue our restocking, monitoring and research activities, it’s quite possible that the Petitcodiac watershed will one day again be home to IBoF salmon!”