A Mi’kmaq-led aquatic research organization is fitting Atlantic salmon with acoustic and satellite tracking devices to learn more about their behaviour and survival in waters beyond the traditional Mi’kmaw territory in the Atlantic region.
Researchers with the Gespe’gewaq Mi’gmaq Resource Council (GMRC) in Listuguj, Que., partnered with other environmental and research organizations from across Mi’kmaw territory to tag and track the salmon as they depart this spring for waters as far away as Greenland.
Atlantic salmon spend part of their lives in rivers and streams on the East Coast but swim out into offshore waters “to grow big and strong, so they can come back,” said Carole-Anne Gillis, research director for GMRC.
“There’s salmon that can spend a year or two [offshore] and for most of the time we don’t know what happened — where they went, what they did, how they grew, what they ate,” she said.
“[There has been] a big void of knowledge that we had on where they are in the offshore and how far off the coast are they actually feeding.”
With the help of anglers from nearby Mi’kmaw communities and fishing groups, the teams have landed dozens of salmon from the Restigouche and the Nepisiguit rivers in New Brunswick. The salmon are placed in a solution containing water and clove oil, which works as a natural sedative, Gillis said, and biologists surgically implant the tracking devices.
“It’s cool to be working with the salmon and learning more about just what we see here in Listuguj. When it’s here, that’s just a small percentage of of its life cycle,” said Craig Isaac, a Mi’kmaw aquatic research technician with GMRC.
“My grandfather was a salmon fisher, my mom’s a salmon fisher and I fish salmon myself occasionally. Salmon being a very important food source for the Mi’kmaq … it’s going to help us to better protect or save [them].”
The tagging project, which will continue in the coming weeks and once the salmon return, is funded and organized in part by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans through the Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management (AAROM) program.