Atlantic Salmon inner Bay of Fundy population: action plan, 2019

Official title: Action Plan for the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), inner Bay of Fundy population in Canada 2019

The Species at Risk Act Action Plan for Atlantic Salmon, inner Bay of Fundy populations in Canada outlines the measures considered necessary for the survival and recovery of the inner Bay of Fundy (iBoF) Salmon. It was prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in collaboration with Parks Canada Agency, and with input from federal and provincial departments, the multi-stakeholders iBoF Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team, and other interested parties.

Species at Risk Act
Action plan series

Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon
Document information

Recommended citation: Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2019. Action Plan for the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), inner Bay of Fundy population in Canada. Species at Risk Act action plan series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. vii + 61pp.

For copies of the action plan, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC status reports, residence descriptions, recovery strategies, and other related recovery documents, please visit the SAR Public Registry.

Cover illustration: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Maritimes Region

Également disponible en français sous le titre « Plan d’action du saumon atlantique (Salmo salar), population de l’intérieur de la baie de Fundy au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, 2018. All rights reserved.

ISBN

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Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.

Preface

The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of action plans for species listed as extirpated, endangered, and threatened for which recovery has been deemed feasible. They are also required to report on progress five years after the publication of the final document on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Under SARA, one or more action plan(s) provides the detailed recovery planning that supports the strategic direction set out in the recovery strategy for the species. The plan outlines what needs to be done to achieve the population and distribution objectives (previously referred to as recovery goals and objectives) identified in the recovery strategy, including the measures to be taken to address the threats and monitor the recovery of the species, as well as the proposed measures to protect critical habitat that has been identified for the species. The action plan also includes an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the measures and the benefits to be derived from their implementation. The action plan is considered one in a series of documents that are linked and should be taken into consideration together; those being the COSEWIC status report, the recovery strategy, and one or more action plans.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency; namely the Minister of the Environment, are the competent ministers under SARA for the Atlantic Salmon, inner Bay of Fundy populations, and have prepared this action plan to implement the recovery strategy, as per section 47 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation and collaboration with the multi-stakeholder, multi-interest Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team (appendix C) which is comprised of relevant federal (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada Agency) and provincial governments (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia provincial governments), academia, industry, First Nations and Aboriginal organizations, environmental non-government organizations, and a number of local watershed conservation organizations. The action plan has also been prepared with any others, as per subsection 48(1) of SARA (appendix B).

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions and actions set out in this action plan and will not be achieved by Parks Canada Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or any other jurisdiction, alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this action plan for the benefit of the Atlantic Salmon, inner Bay of Fundy populations, and Canadian society as a whole.

Implementation of this action plan is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.

Acknowledgments

This action plan was developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in collaboration with Parks Canada Agency and with input from the multi-stakeholder, multi-interest Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team (the “Recovery Team”) (appendix C). This document builds upon the “Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), inner Bay of Fundy populations”(DFO 2010). DFO is grateful to the Recovery Team for their participation in the initial action planning workshop (November 7, 2012), for their ongoing and dedicated efforts in providing information, expertise and perspectives contributing to the development of this action plan, and in the commitment of many of its groups and organizations to collaborate in its implementation. DFO also wishes to recognize the input provided by the broader public in the consultation process. See appendix B for the Record of Cooperation and Consultation.

Executive summary

The Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) is an anadromous fish. The inner Bay of Fundy populations of Atlantic Salmon (iBoF Salmon) are reported to have inhabited many of the approximately 50 rivers draining into the inner bay in both Nova Scotia (NS) and New Brunswick (NB). The populations of iBoF Salmon face separate threats in the marine and freshwater environments. Although the causes of the marked decline of iBoF Salmon are not well understood, historical impacts in freshwater may have contributed to their decline and current status, while evidence suggests that recovery is currently primarily limited by low marine survival. Survival of the populations is currently maintained through a captive breeding and rearing program known as the Live Gene Bank (LGB). Historically, iBoF Salmon populations supported economically and culturally significant Aboriginal, recreational and commercial fisheries, and at present Salmon remain socially and culturally important to local communities and Aboriginal people of Atlantic Canada.  

Assessed as Endangered in May of 2001, the iBoF Salmon was included as endangered under schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) when the Act was proclaimed in June 2003. Individuals found within the two Fundy National Park watersheds (Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon) are also protected under the Canada National Parks Act. The “Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), inner Bay of Fundy populations” (the recovery strategy) sets out the broad strategies and approaches needed for the species’ recovery with an overall goal to “re-establish wild, self-sustaining populations as required to conserve the genetic characteristics of the remaining anadromous iBoF Atlantic Salmon” (DFO 2010). The recovery strategy identifies critical habitat for iBoF Salmon in ten rivers. No additional critical habitat is identified in this action plan. Marine and estuarine critical habitat areas will be included in a forthcoming amended recovery strategy. The recovery strategy and this action plan were prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Parks Canada Agency (PCA), who is responsible for the species within Fundy National Park, with advice from, and in collaboration with, the Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team (the “Recovery Team”; appendix C).

This action plan, intended to implement the species’ recovery strategy, presents the recovery measures necessary to address the iBoF Salmon’s entire Canadian distribution and seeks to build on previous and ongoing activities. This action plan specifically outlines 35 recovery measures needed to address all five recovery objectives of the recovery strategy. Narratives describing each measure are provided.

In brief, the recovery measures outlined include activities related to the following:

  • continue LGB program for principal iBoF Salmon populations and assess the LGB program’s contribution to recovery
  • promote iBoF Salmon recovery on the Petitcodiac River
  • undertake a tracking project on smolts to better understand marine mortality of iBoF Salmon and identify actions to mitigate marine threats
  • identify and describe areas of marine and estuarine critical habitat
  • update analysis of barriers in iBoF estuaries and improve habitat connectivity
  • investigate effects of disease and parasite loads, and improve monitoring and management of sea lice
  • prevent and mitigate escaped farmed Salmon
  • continue to promote and host recovery team meetings as opportunities for communication, collaborations and exploration of new and innovative recovery approaches

Success in the recovery of iBoF Salmon is not solely dependent on the actions of any single jurisdiction; rather it requires the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions and actions set out in this action plan. Accordingly, this action plan contains an implementation schedule which is organized into three tables by the lead participant in the activity.

Adopting an adaptive management approach to recovery for iBoF Salmon will be essential to ensure the survival of the species within its existing habitat, success of recovery efforts, and to address threats. SARA requires that the implementation of an action plan and its ecological and socio-economic impacts be assessed and reported on five years after the plan comes into effect. Accordingly, a 5-year report will be developed at that time to address a review of activities completed or ongoing, which will assist in reviewing progress on implementing this action plan and ensure any new information or changing conditions are taken into account. DFO and PCA will continue to work cooperatively with the iBoF Salmon Recovery Team and any other stakeholders, First Nation, Aboriginal organizations, and other interested parties towards the recovery of iBoF Salmon.

An evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation was completed. The evaluation showed that many of the measures included in this action plan represent a continuation of current activities or responsibilities and commitments of DFO and/or other groups into the foreseeable future, such as those related to the Live Gene Bank program. Therefore these measures are unlikely to result in additional costs over and above what is already planned. However, certain measures, such the acoustic smolt tracking work and work in the areas of tidal and freshwater habitat improvements, may require large scale investments in excess of $100,000 each. Additional research and analysis may each require investments in the range of tens of thousands of dollars. For several of the measures, insufficient information is available to provide an assessment of potential costs, therefore the total cost of fully implementing this action plan can not be assessed at this time.

If fully implemented, it is anticipated that this action plan will benefit the iBoF Salmon as well as other species located within the inner Bay of Fundy area, in particular other populations of Atlantic Salmon. The potential for effects on other species have been considered (appendix A). Additionally, as Canadians have been shown to value the conservation and preservation of species in and of themselves, it is anticipated that this action plan will contribute positively to the livelihoods and the quality of life of all Canadians by promoting self-sustaining and healthy ecosystems.

1 Recovery actions

1.1 Context and scope of the action plan

The scope of this action plan includes the recovery measures necessary to address the entire Canadian distribution of Atlantic Salmon, inner Bay of Fundy population. The action plan addresses all five of the recovery objectives and corresponding approaches identified in the recovery strategy, and seeks to build on previous and ongoing activities that address these objectives.

The Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) is a medium-sized anadromous fish (meaning it migrates up rivers from the sea to spawn in fresh water) endemic to temperate waters in the northern hemisphere. The inner Bay of Fundy populations of Atlantic Salmon (iBoF Salmon) are considered a designatable unit (DU) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and the entire iBoF Salmon DU exists within Eastern Canada. It includes 50 named rivers draining into the inner Bay of Fundy, starting with the Mispec River (northeast of the Saint John River in New Brunswick (NB)) to the Pereaux River (in the Minas Basin northeast of the Annapolis River in Nova Scotia (NS)) (figure 1). Adult iBoF Salmon are reported to have inhabited from 32 to 42 rivers in that area. Two of these watersheds, the Upper Salmon and Point Wolfe, are primarily contained within Fundy National Park, NB. IBoF Salmon populations are categorised as a DU because they possess distinct genetic traits and unique life history characteristics, including maturity after one winter at sea and a localized sea migration. IBoF Salmon stay mainly within the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine area, compared to other Atlantic Salmon populations which migrate to the north Atlantic.

The collective populations of iBoF Salmon may have numbered as many as 40,000 adults earlier in the 20th century and returned to approximately 40 rivers. They have been reduced to as few as 100 adults returning to a small number of rivers in recent years. Although the populations have historically fluctuated widely, the populations have declined to critically low abundance levels and the DU is currently at imminent risk of extinction.

The causes of the decline of iBoF Salmon are not well understood. Although historical impacts in freshwater may have contributed to the species’ decline and current status, evidence suggests that recovery of iBoF Salmon is currently primarily limited by low marine survival, the cause(s) of which are not well understood. Potential threats have been identified in both the freshwater and marine environments and are outlined in the recovery strategy. Populations are currently maintained through a Live Gene Bank (LGB) programFootnote 1, which is a captive breeding and rearing program (see appendix D for a summary and schematic of the iBoF Salmon LGB program). This action plan recommends that this program continue, while efforts are made to identify and remedy the causes of low marine survival or until alternative strategies can be identified, evaluated and supported.

Map. See long description below.
Figure 1. Location of the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon DU and approximate location of the 50 rivers referred to in this document. Orange denotes rivers containing critical habitat. The darkened green parcel represents the location of Fundy National Park.
Long description

Figure 1 is a map outlining the location of the 50 named rivers of the inner Bay of Fundy.  Each river is numbered on the map starting with the Pereaux River in the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia and progressing around the inner Bay to the Mispec River, northeast of the Saint John River in New Brunswick. The ten rivers containing critical habitat are coloured in orange. Fundy National Park is represented by a green parcel. A small insert in the top left hand corner shows the location of the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon designatable unit.

COSEWIC assessed the iBoF Salmon as Endangered in May of 2001 (COSEWIC 2001). This status was re-examined and confirmed in both April 2006 and November 2010 (COSEWIC 2006, 2010). The collective populations of iBoF Salmon were included as Endangered under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) when the Act was proclaimed in June 2003.

A recovery strategy for iBoF Salmon was co-developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Parks Canada Agency (PCA), who has jurisdiction for the species within Fundy National Park, in cooperation and consultation with the long-standing multi-stakeholder, multi-interest Recovery Team. The “Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), inner Bay of Fundy populations” (the “recovery strategy“) was published on the federal Species at Risk Public Registry (the “Registry“) in May 2010 and sets out the broad strategies and approaches needed for the species’ recovery (DFO 2010). This action plan builds upon those identified approaches to address the species’ entire Canadian distribution and implement the recovery strategy to achieve the overall goal for iBoF Salmon recovery, namely to:

“re-establish wild, self-sustaining populations as required to conserve the genetic characteristics of the remaining anadromous iBoF Atlantic Salmon.”

Despite threats in freshwater that have contributed to the decline of iBoF Salmon, it is recognized that factor(s) limiting population recovery of iBoF Salmon currently occur primarily in the marine environment, and the species’ survival is contingent on the LGB program. Given this, both short and long term population and distribution objectives were set in the recovery strategy. The short term target is set at the conservation levelsFootnote 2 within the ten rivers that contribute to the LGB program (namely, the Gaspereau, Stewiacke, Debert, Folly, Great Village, Portapique, Economy, Upper Salmon, Point Wolfe and Big Salmon). The longer term target, should marine survival improve, is defined as the conservation levels within an additional set of nine rivers important for the long term population self-sustainability, namely the Shubenacadie, Salmon, North, Bass, Chiganois, Harrington, Apple, Maccan and Petitcodiac.

This action plan specifically outlines the recovery measures required to implement the five prioritized recovery objectives and associated approaches identified in the recovery strategy as outlined below.

Objective 1: Conserve iBoF Salmon genetic characteristics and re-establish self-sustaining populations to iBoF rivers.

Approaches:

  1. provide iBoF Salmon with appropriate genetic characteristics for re-colonization of iBoF rivers designated for recovery
  2. conserve the genetic characteristics of the residual populations from the Chignecto Bay and the Minas Basin (specifically Gaspereau, Stewiacke, Debert, Folly, Great Village, Portapique, Economy, Upper Salmon, Point Wolfe and Big Salmon)
  3. use LGB strategies to conserve iBoF genetic characteristics and re-establish self-sustaining populations in iBoF rivers

Objective 2: Identify and remedy anthropogenic threats limiting survival and/or recovery of iBoF Salmon in the marine environment.

Approaches:

  1. determine marine habitat quality, quantity and use by iBoF Salmon populations
  2. preserve and recover marine habitat
  3. identify and evaluate marine threats that could limit iBoF Salmon survival and/or recovery
  4. reduce or mitigate marine threats that could limit iBoF Salmon survival and/or recovery

Objective 3: Identify and remedy anthropogenic threats limiting survival and/or recovery of iBoF Salmon in the freshwater environment.

Approaches:

  1. continue to review and determine freshwater habitat quality, quantity and use by iBoF Salmon populations
  2. preserve and recover freshwater habitat
  3. identify and evaluate freshwater habitat threats that could limit iBoF Salmon survival and/or recovery
  4. reduce or mitigate freshwater threats that could limit iBoF Salmon survival and/or recovery

Objective 4: Assess population status, sustainability and recovery feasibility.

Approaches:

  1. continue to review and update the annual status of populations where information is available
  2. periodically evaluate recovery success, review progress towards attaining self-sustainable populations and assess the feasibility of recovery

Objective 5: Communicate and increase the awareness of the status and recovery of iBoF Salmon.

Approaches:

  1. involve governments, non-government and conservation organizations, other stakeholders, Aboriginal Peoples, industry and the general public in the planning and conduct of recovery initiatives
  2. communicate with the relevant stakeholders on the status of recovery efforts in a manner that demonstrates how their behaviours can affect recovery

The recovery strategy provides more details on the strategic direction for recovery of iBoF Salmon, as well as further information on the species’ biology and needs, its threats and the identified critical habitat.

No other action plans related to iBoF Salmon have been published or submitted for inclusion on the Registry. However, the following additional document can be associated with implementation of the recovery strategy:

  • Petitcodiac River Renaissance Plan: A three-year plan developed by the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper which contains a number of priorities, including the completion of the Petitcodiac River Restoration Project and implementation of a native fish recovery strategy by 2015.

1.2 Recovery measures

The recovery measures presented in this action plan outline the current understanding of what needs to be done to promote the recovery of iBoF Salmon, including achieving the population and distribution objectives and addressing the threats. The measures are meant to facilitate the recovery planning process by identifying activities that can be used to guide not only activities to be undertaken by DFO and PCA, but also those for which other jurisdictions, organizations and individuals committed to iBoF Salmon recovery have a role to play. This action plan builds upon many successful activities already underway while at the same time recognizing that other measures need to be undertaken or enhanced.

These measures address each of the recovery strategy’s five objectives and respective approaches. The rationale for each recovery objective is outlined in the recovery strategy. The recovery measures are presented in a chronological order under, and in the same order as, the corresponding recovery strategy objective. The associated narrative below provides details on each of the recovery measures and links to the subsequent Implementation Schedule in section 1.3, which identifies the participating partners and timelines. Each measure is numbered consecutively and this number relates to the measure’s location within the relevant table. For additional ease of reference the table number (table 1, 2 or 3) has been included in brackets alongside each measure title. Measures that consist of sub-activities within a measure or sub-measures which may appear in more than one of the tables were labelled a, b, c accordingly. Monitoring methods have been provided where possible. It is acknowledged that recovery measures and the manner in which they are conducted are adaptively managed. That is, as new information and techniques become available they are considered and incorporated as appropriate into the program methodology.

Federal funding programs for species at risk that may provide opportunities to obtain funding to carry out some of the outlined activities include the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk Program, and the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund. Funding for species at risk recovery work within Canada’s national parks, including iBoF Salmon recovery work in Fundy National Park, is also available through Parks Canada’s Conservation and Restoration (CoRe) Program. The Coastal Restoration Fund may provide funding opportunities to restore coastal aquatic habitat Funding opportunities for fish and/or their habitat also exist within both NB and NS, such as the Nova Scotia Salmon Association’s Adopt-a-Stream program, and New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund. Other sources of funding, such as the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation Fund, also exist and partners are encouraged to seek out those funding sources.

Recovery Objective 1: Conserve iBoF Salmon genetic characteristics and re-establish self-sustaining populations to iBoF rivers

1. Continue the iBoF Salmon Live Gene Bank (LGB) program with ongoing activities at the Mactaquac and Coldbook Biodiversity Facilities (table 1)

Live Gene Banks (LGBs) have been established for the iBoF Salmon for over 15 years (initiated in 1998) and activities are currently centered at the DFO Mactaquac and Coldbrook Biodiversity Facilities, in NB and NS respectively (see Appendix D for a summary and schematic of the iBoF Salmon LGB program). The purpose of this program is to maintain the potential for iBoF Salmon recovery by preserving the genetic base thought to be representative of the populations. The LGB program has been used to maintain the persistence of iBoF Salmon to date and a plan to continue for a further 5 years is currently under development. The program will, however, continue to be periodically reviewed and re-evaluated, with adjustments made as appropriate to accommodate new information and changing conditions.

The LGB program is currently focused on four rivers: the Stewiacke and Gaspereau in NS, and the Big Salmon and Point Wolfe in NB. LGB fish have also, however, been released into the Upper Salmon, Weldon Creek, Demoiselle, Petitcodiac, Black, Economy, Great Village, Debert, Folly, Salmon (Colchester), Cornwallis, and Portapique rivers.

  • the LGB program should continue to provide river-specific and locally-adapted iBoF Salmon to the four principal iBoF rivers: the Stewiacke and Gaspereau in NS, and the Big Salmon and Point Wolfe in NB
  • the LGB program should continue to provide iBoF Salmon to other rivers with priority given to those identified in the recovery strategy’s short term target: Debert, Economy, Folly, Great Village, Portapique, and Upper Salmon. Juveniles should also be provided for release into select iBoF rivers to maximize juvenile production and smolt output, and for research opportunities
2. Undertake genetic analyses of adult returns to the Big Salmon and Gaspereau rivers to assess origin of spawners (table 1)

DFO carries out a genetic assessment of Big Salmon and Gaspereau River adult Salmon returns. Results on the Gaspereau River are used to estimate whether individual suspect returns (candidate spawners in the Gaspereau River program) are of native origin or either aquaculture strays or non-native wild Salmon, and to pedigree (i.e., determine the ancestry) native Salmon.  Pedigree information on presumed native Gaspereau River Salmon is then used in the LGB both to prioritize Salmon for spawning, and to minimize inbreeding in the next generation.  Information on Big Salmon River adult returns is being used to assess the efficacy of different LGB management strategies in the context of marine survival, reproductive success, and overall fitness (life time reproductive success), and to provide information on the offspring of adult returns (offspring of a portion of adult returns are later captured as out-migrating smolt, brought back into Mactaquac and considered for spawning).  Information on the Big Salmon River adult returns can help place wild-produced smolt into population-specific pedigrees, which in turn can help minimize inbreeding, loss of genetic variation, and (potentially) loss of fitness due to adaptation to captive conditions. The monitoring activities outlined in relevant measures under objective 4 (measures 27 and 30) will provide the genetic samples for undertaking this measure.

3. Optimize LGB mating strategies to improve the marine survival component of fitness (table 1)

Returning adult iBoF Salmon possess genetic characteristics that are important for survival at sea. Their genes should therefore be incorporated into the LGB to ensure that these successful characteristics are represented in future LGB offspring and thus optimize mating strategies to improve fitness (ability to survive and reproduce in their natural habitat). This is particularly true when the number of returning adults is low.

Only a small number of adults return to the Gaspereau River, therefore integrating those few survivors into the LGB mating strategy is important. Confirmed ancestry iBoF Salmon adult returns to iBoF rivers will also be evaluated and prioritized for incorporation into the LGB mating plan.

The steps required to accomplish this measure are as follows:

  1. capture the genetics of iBoF Salmon that survived at sea or were progeny (i.e., descendant or offspring) of those that returned from sea
  2. incorporate those individuals (i.e. their representative genetics) into the mating plan
  3. collect and spawn offspring of known multiple-recruit spawners

The monitoring activities outlined in relevant measures under Objective 4 (measures 27 and 30) will provide the genetic samples for undertaking this measure.

4. Annually collect wild-exposedFootnote 3 iBoF Salmon to maintain a large effective population size for each of the four principal LGB populations (table 1)

The LGB is designed to have multiple year classes (a “year class” being those fish in a population born in the same year) of each of the principal LGB populations. A minimum number of individuals (parr or smolt) are either collected annually from the wild or reared in captivity. The number integrated into the LGB for each population annually is 200 to 300 fish, which is sufficient to ensure an appropriate effective population sizeFootnote 4. This approach is precautionary and within practical limits for management of the LGB. This measure is currently accomplished for three of the four principal LGB rivers (Big Salmon, Gaspereau, and Stewiacke) and should be maintained.

A similar approach was previously accomplished for the Point Wolfe River (which contained a mix of Big Salmon River and Point Wolfe River stock), but since 2010 a different recovery program approach is being undertaken by PCA to preserve the unique genetic stock found in the Point Wolfe River. Collection for LGB activities will continue as per usual practice once both Fundy National Park rivers contain only this unique genetic stock. See measure 5 below for the specific details on this new program and activities required to implement it. Measure 31 provides details on assessing the success of this new recovery program for Fundy National Park rivers.

5. Maintain new LGB approach for Fundy National Park rivers: the Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon (table 1)

Prior to 2010, adult Salmon, which were collected as juveniles from either Big Salmon River or Point Wolfe River, were released into the Point Wolfe River to spawn naturally, and contribute to the production of the next generation of iBoF Salmon. Fundy National Park initiated a change to its iBoF Salmon recovery program in 2010 based on evidence suggesting that the unique Point Wolfe River genetic stock was being lost over generations of mating Big Salmon River and Point Wolfe River Salmon. The new program focuses on Point Wolfe River ancestry Salmon selected from the mixed groups to minimize further loss of this unique genetic strain. Referred to as the Point Wolfe River High Ancestry ProgramFootnote 5, the new program will produce high ancestry stock for release at various stages into Park rivers. Until remnant mixed stock migrates from Upper Salmon and Point Wolfe rivers, high ancestry stock produced in captivity will also be released as unfed fry into vacant habitat in Dickson Brook to gain wild exposure. This approach is expected to continue until both Park rivers contain only the unique Point Wolfe River high ancestry stock for broodstock collection.

In addition to the approach above, which is designed to maintain the unique Point Wolfe River stock, program managers at Fundy National Park continue to adapt strategies to improve fish fitness. To this end, and as resources permit, high ancestry fish surplus to the above approach will be reared to adults for release back into Fundy National Park rivers to spawn naturally in order to produce progeny free of captive exposure to supplement Park’s in-river populations.

The new approach involves undertaking the following activities:

  1. continue to spawn Salmon with high levels of Point Wolfe River ancestry and release juvenile progeny back into Fundy National Park rivers as described above
  2. continue to collect sufficient numbers of wild-exposed high ancestry stock from Fundy National Park rivers for future broodstock with a target of 100 annual matings
  3. continue to release surplus high ancestry broodstock fish at various stages including adults to produce future generations of captive-free juveniles to supplement populations
  4. assess the Point Wolfe River high ancestry captive stock as required to monitor genetic variation and inform strategy direction and/or the development of captive mating plans
  5. continue to adapt strategies to favor recovery based on current state of scientific knowledge
6. Annually collect and analyze tissue samples to monitor the rate of loss of genetic variationFootnote 6 for Big Salmon, Gaspereau and Stewiacke river populations (table 1)

Atlantic Salmon were collected from the wild in the late 1990s and into 2001 from several iBoF rivers to establish the iBoF Salmon LGB. At the time, these founder fish were tissue sampled and their genetic diversity estimated using established techniques. Tissue samples are taken annually from fish collected from the wild to maintain the LGB (see measures 27 and 30) and analyzed to assess the genetic variation that remains in the LGB populations. This activity is ongoing and the results are used to plan ongoing collections and mating strategies.

7. Develop annual mating plans for the three principal LGB rivers managed by DFO (table 1)

Mating plans are developed annually for the three principal LGB river populations managed by DFO (Stewiacke, Gaspereau, and Big Salmon) to minimize the risk of losing genetic variation and to avoid inbreeding (i.e., mating of genetically, closely-related individuals). Genetic data is used to determine which fish comes from which family and a mating plan is developed to avoid the mating of related individuals. Mating plans include a family equalization process (process that equalizes each mating cross to a known number; thus giving each family an equal opportunity for survival). This approach will limit the influence that differential survival would have in a captive rearing environment, thus potentially reducing adverse effect on fitness.  Mating plans related to the fourth principal LGB river (i.e., Point Wolfe) is described in measure 5 above.

8. Promote the recovery of iBoF Salmon on the Petitcodiac River

Results of past juvenile surveys (conducted in the early 2000s) suggest that the wild population of iBoF Salmon in the Petitcodiac River was likely extirpated. Prior to the construction of a causeway in 1968, Atlantic Salmon from the Petitcodiac River, NB contributed significantly to both commercial and recreational fisheries within the iBoF region. The causeway obstructed the passage of adult Salmon and smolt for 42 years until the gates were opened in spring 2010 as part of a larger plan to restore tidal flow and fish passage on the Petitcodiac River (see actions completed or underway in the recovery strategy for further detail). The loss of the Petitcodiac as a Salmon production river remains an unproven but potential contributor to the decline and prolonged poor recovery of the iBoF Salmon populations. Because the iBoF Salmon Recovery Strategy was completed prior to the opening of the causeway gates and no remnant wild Petitcodiac River stock was found during juvenile surveys completed in 2009, no specific recovery efforts for the Petitcodiac River were included at the time. Since then, the gates have opened and recovery efforts have been ongoing. The outcome of those recovery efforts and the next steps for promoting recovery on Petitcodiac River can now be examined. Additional information regarding the historical importance of the Petitcodiac River can be found in section 1.7.4 (freshwater threats) of the recovery strategy.

Along with the opportunistic releases of salmon described in measure 1, focused and specific Petitcodiac River Salmon restoration efforts are needed. Re-establishing Salmon on the Petitcodiac River in the short to medium term will likely require a directed effort and a source of donor stock given that iBoF Salmon have been extirpated on this river. The current approach being actively pursued and supported is a collaborative conservation marine net pen project. An explanation of this approach and the next steps needed are outlined below.

Conservation marine net pen project

Following the opening of the causeway gates, DFO has contributed both non-targeted iBoF Salmon from the LGB program (unfed-fry and adults) and experimental iBoF Salmon from a recent research project in support of stakeholder efforts to restore Atlantic Salmon to the Petitcodiac River. These contributions are currently producing small numbers of emigrating smolts. A research project (hereafter ‘net pen project’) is presently exploring the effectiveness of rearing some of these smolts to maturity in marine net pens and releasing them back into the Petitcodiac River as adults to spawn captive-free generations. This research is part of a multi-stakeholder collaborative project currently between Fort Folly First Nation, Parks Canada Agency (Fundy National Park), DFO, the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, Cooke Aquaculture, and the NB Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.The project is in its early phase and would benefit from the development of a detailed 5-year plan and ongoing monitoring to evaluate its effectiveness in promoting recovery on the Petitcodiac.

The following activities are required to evaluate the success of the net pen project and to help inform future recovery efforts on the Petitcodiac River and potentially other iBoF rivers.

Next Steps: Develop and implement a 5-year plan for the net pen project on the Petitcodiac River, evaluate the effectiveness of this recovery approach and determine next steps. (table 2)

A 5-year plan for the Petitcodiac River net pen project should be developed. This plan should recognize the multi-stakeholder approach described above, and guiding principles developed in consultation with the iBoF Salmon Recovery Team on the following topics: fish contributions needed, monitoring requirements to evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken, and requirements for any scientific analysis in support of determining project success. The outcomes of the net pen project analysis should be reviewed in five years to inform next steps.

Recovery Objective 2: Identify and remedy anthropogenic threats limiting survival and/or recovery of iBoF Salmon in the marine environment

9. Identify areas of marine and estuarine critical habitat for iBoF Salmon and outline any research activities that need to be undertaken in the recovery strategy’s schedule of studies (table 1)

According to SARA, critical habitat for endangered species must be identified and subsequently protected. The published recovery strategy for iBoF Salmon identifies freshwater critical habitat and includes a Schedule of Studies that outlines the research activities required to identify estuarine and marine critical habitat (see DFO 2010, section 2.5). A DFO Science peer review process in November 2012 reviewed, updated, and synthesised information on important marine and estuarine habitat for iBoF Salmon (Marshall 2013). The advice resulting from this process is summarized in a Science Advisory Report (DFO 2013) and is being used by DFO to:

  1. inform the identification of marine and estuarine critical habitat in an amended recovery strategy. This work is underway and is scheduled for completion in 2019
  2. update the Schedule of Studies in the amended recovery strategy to outline any additional research activities required to further refine knowledge of iBoF Salmon critical habitat use in the Bay of Fundy. These activities will be undertaken according to the timelines laid out in this schedule

See also Section 2 in this document for further information on critical habitat for iBoF Salmon.

10. Determine movement and migration of smolts to a) improve characterization of marine mortality, and b) identify and implement actions to mitigate marine threats to post-smolts (table 2)

While the LGB supports the persistence of iBoF Salmon, adult returns to iBoF rivers are significantly lower than the number of smolts exiting the rivers. Low survival from the smolt-to-grilse stage (i.e., survival during first winter at sea) has been identified as the main factor limiting the recovery of iBoF Salmon. How and when they are dying during the marine portion of their life cycle remains unclear.

Within the past decade, acoustic tracking and marine trawl research has been undertaken to improve knowledge of at-sea migration behaviour of iBoF Salmon. While this research has identified post-smolt habitat use during a portion of the year (from May to August), precise estimates of where, when and how post-smolts are dying in the marine environment are lacking and therefore specific actions required to mitigate marine threats also remains unclear. Implementation of this measure includes both a project development and smolt tracking phase, followed by a data analysis and action implementation phase as described below.

a. Improve characterisation of marine mortality

Project development: DFO will oversee the development of a post-smolt tracking and analysis project. During the planning phase existing information will be summarized (for example, existing tracking technologies), research question(s) and experimental design will be determined, external partners will be engaged, and potential funding sources to support a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach will be identified.

Smolt tracking: DFO will oversee the field and analysis component of the project undertaken by partners (including Acadia University and the Atlantic Salmon Federation). The preferred tracking technology will be determined in the project development phase. Smolts exiting a sub-set of iBoF rivers will be tracked in the marine environment over the course of a defined period of time. This research will build upon previous work to characterize habitat use in the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine and to identify potential causes of iBoF Salmon mortality.

b. Identify and implement mitigation measures

Data Analysis: The tracking data will be analysed to examine where and how smolt and post-smolt mortality is occurring in the marine environment. This analysis may provide important information on the type, location and timing of threats encountered by smolts and post-smolts in the marine environment, and will inform what specific actions should be taken to mitigate these threats.

Identify and implement actions:  Based on the results of the data analysis describe above, specific mitigation measures to address marine threats to posts-smolts should be identified and implemented, if possible, depending on the marine mortality stressor identified.

The implementation of this measure could also have potential relevance to other Salmon populations in the Bay of Fundy.

11. Examine long-term changes in environmental conditions in the Bay of Fundy and compare with past and present habitat use and anthropogenic threats to identify possible relationships (table 3)

Over time, changes in marine environmental conditions (biological, chemical and physical) resulting from anthropogenic (resulting from human activities) or natural sources can make habitat more or less suitable for Salmon. These changes in habitat suitability (quality and quantity of habitat) may limit the survival and recovery of a species. Past and present environmental conditions can be compared to identify trends and major changes. These patterns can be correlated with current habitat use and known anthropogenic threats and impacts to identify possible causal relationships.

The following activities would be involved in undertaking this measure:

  1. collect and analyse past and present predator and prey composition, abundance and distribution data in the Bay of Fundy. Historical information can be gathered via literature review of historic predator and prey base information. Current information can be gathered via targeted research surveys. The collection and analysis of predator information will complement the implementation of Measure 14 to improve the understanding of marine predation on iBoF Salmon
  2. collect and analyse past and present chemical and physical habitat quality characteristic data (i.e. water temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, etc.) of the Bay of Fundy. Data can be gathered via consulting existing databases and additional current data can be collected during ongoing projects (for example, smolt tracking outlined in Measure 10)
  3. conduct a multivariate analysis to correlate findings from “a” and “b” with existing past iBoF habitat use information, any new habitat use information (for example, that collected in Measure 10), and all anthropogenic factors potentially influencing the environment (for example, forestry, agriculture, climate change, aquaculture production (see Measure 16), etc.) to identify any relationships between current habitat use and past changes in the marine environment
  4. identify any areas where ongoing or proposed anthropogenic activities may threaten habitat quality or quantity
12. Remove/modify tidal barriers in iBoF Salmon estuaries to restore connectivity

Over time the building of dykes, dams and the development of hydroelectric generating facilities has created barriers to fish passage, caused the degradation and loss of tidal wetland habitat, and led to changes in the dynamics and distribution of sediments in the Bay of Fundy. Modern tidal barriers such as coastal roads and highways, and their associated causeways, culverts and bridges have also had a significant impact on coastal wetlands, tidal rivers and fish passage. As a result, migrating species, such as iBoF Salmon, have likely lost access to potential freshwater and estuarine habitat and historical migration routes.

A collaborative tidal barrier audit conducted in the Bay of Fundy in the early 2000s by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and the Ecology Action Centre (on the NS side of the Bay) found that a significant percentage of rivers were partially or completely blocked by tidal barriers and that a large proportion of the tidal wetlands have been lost. A collaborative project headed by the Department of Geography at Saint Mary’s University subsequently consolidated and packaged the results from these audits into a single source. A report was produced (van Proosdij and Dobek 2005), a summary website developed, and information from these audits transposed into a comprehensive digital spatial database. These data are available by contacting the Department of Geography at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS.

The information in the Tidal Barrier Database could be valuable to restoration groups interested in removing barriers and/or improving fish passage to restore connectivity (i.e., conditions that allow fish and other aquatic organisms to move freely upstream and downstream within a watercourse) to upstream habitat in iBoF estuaries.

The following activities should be undertaken to restore connectivity in iBoF Salmon estuaries. Measure 21 addresses specific activities aimed at improving/restoring connectivity in freshwater habitat.

a. Regularly update, improve and share the Bay of Fundy Tidal Barrier Database (table 2)

Improvements to the Tidal Barrier Database recommended in the 2005 report should be explored. Consideration should also be given to expanding the database to include information on dykes and aboiteaux (i.e., earthen dyke equipped with a wooden gate constructed to stop high tides from inundating marshland) in the Bay. Marshland infrastructures in NB waterways are available on the GeoNB website as a downloadable file. The Tidal Barrier Database should be updated regularly to ensure restored areas are reflected and provided to groups interested in restoring/improving connectivity in iBoF estuaries.

b. Explore opportunities to plan and implement tidal barrier remediation at priority sites (table 3)

Implementing tidal barrier remediation should be undertaken in collaboration with landowners and other partners, with priority to iBoF Salmon critical habitat rivers and secondarily to other priority rivers as outlined in the recovery strategy and the “Context and Scope” section of this action plan. Funding sources and regulatory permissions will have to be sought in advance. One potential manner to implement tidal barrier remediation projects is through offsetting measuresFootnote 7 when they are required as a result of Fisheries Act regulatory reviews. The priority iBoF Salmon remediation sites will be identified as regional restoration priorities within the DFO Fisheries Protection Program (FPP; the DFO sector responsible for the implementation of offsetting measures).

Aboiteaux normally have fish passage by modifications made in the design of the gates. However, when such structures require rehabilitation, in NB the NB Department of Environment and Local Government (NBDELG) and in NS the NS Department of Agriculture (NSDA), in consultation with DFO, includes fish passage improvements in the project plan where possible. The review and improvements to structures has been applied where possible at this time and should continue with priority given to iBoF Salmon critical habitat rivers and other priority rivers as outlined in the recovery strategy.

13. Quantify, monitor and explore further mitigation options for bycatch in marine fisheries (table 2)

Bycatch of migrating Salmon smolts in American Shad (Alosa sapidissima) and Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus) marine fisheries was identified as a threat to iBoF Salmon in the Recovery Strategy. Although Salmon captures in these fisheries are believed to be low and measures to minimize bycatch and mortality of iBoF Salmon have been implemented (for example, season and area restrictions, enforcement, live release requirements and mechanisms), the overall impact of even small bycatch amounts on the low iBoF Salmon population size is uncertain. A recent update of information on fishing bycatch of iBoF Salmon and its impacts on the species survival or recovery has been accomplished (DFO 2016a). The conclusion of this review states that data on bycatch of Atlantic Salmon in the iBoF region is lacking and thus its quantification is not possible. Quantifying iBoF Salmon bycatch in marine fisheries is challenging, but there should be some attempt to target relevant fisheries for increased monitoring, and better recording and reporting of bycatch information, as recommended in DFO 2016a. This should be followed by the review of the new information collected to provide an estimate of iBoF Salmon bycatch. Subsequently explore further options and implement measures to minimize bycatch as needed.

A number of activities are needed to better quantify bycatch in marine fisheries.

  1. correlate current and historical fisheries data including gear used, and Salmon bycatch records with current iBoF Salmon habitat use (possibly informed by Measure 10) to identify possible high risk areas for fishery interactions
  2. increase monitoring, recording, and reporting in relevant fisheries in targeted areas to quantify actual bycatch
  3. depending on the outcome of “b” above, undertake an assessment of potential additional mitigation options to minimize bycatch in high risk areas in collaboration with fishers. This action plan does not prescribe specific types of mitigation measures (voluntary or regulatory) needed to reduce bycatch levels at this time, but the selection of specific potential future mitigation measures will rely upon the outcome of the quantification of iBoF Salmon bycatch levels and collaboration with relevant fishers

The monitoring of bycatch in “b” will further support measure 15 by providing samples of emigrating smolts caught as bycatch in targeted fisheries for inspection of their exposure to diseases and parasites.

14. Improve understanding of marine predation on iBoF Salmon populations (table 3)

Marine predation on Salmon, specifically the predation of smolts entering the marine environment, may be affecting the marine survival of iBoF Salmon. Fish, marine mammals, and birds (for example double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) and merganser species (Mergus sp.)) are known to prey on Salmon. A study in the Gulf of Maine (Friedland et al. 2011) reported an increase in several pelagic predatory fish species over the last number of years, such as Silver Hake (Merluccius bilinearis), Red Hake (Urophycis chuss), and Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias), in the areas that serve as migration corridors for post-smolts. There has also been an increase in the abundance of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and gray seals (Halichoerus grypus).

Changes to the spatial distribution of predators (leading to increased interactions with iBoF Salmon) or an increase in predator abundance could potentially be linked to the increase in marine mortality observed in the past two decades. Recent satellite tagging studies have indicated high mortality of kelts (surviving post-spawned adults) in the marine environment that has been linked to large pelagic predators (for example, Porbeagle Shark (Lamna nasus); Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus); Lacroix 2014), however this study notes that the impact of large pelagic predators on the potential for recovery of Endangered Salmon populations merits further investigation. Also of interest is a greater understanding of the impact of bird predation, as well as the potential attraction and impact of predators near aquaculture sites on migrating wild iBoF Salmon. The analysis of data from existing acoustic arrays and species tracking projects (for example, see measure 10) established within the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine should be completed to continue to improve our understanding of habitat overlap between iBoF Salmon (post-smolts, kelts and adults) and potential marine predators.

15. Investigate the effects of disease pathogens and parasite load on the survival and recovery of iBoF Salmon (table 2)

A number of iBoF rivers are known to have endemic fish health issues for example, the Big Salmon River is a positive river for bacterial kidney disease (BKD). Disease pathogens, parasite loading and potential transport/transmission of disease via parasites are considered potential issues affecting the survival rates of iBoF Salmon. The New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries (NBDAAF) and industry are continually collaborating on the health management of fish on fish farms. However, the increase of net pen Salmon aquaculture in the Bay of Fundy has generated questions regarding the potential for diseases and parasites in salmon fish farms being transferred to proximate wild Salmon populations. Outbreaks of diseases like furunculosis and infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) have also occurred in areas where no aquaculture occurs. The NBDAAF has an active farmed fish disease surveillance program and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts, in collaboration with other groups, surveillance for finfish diseases in Atlantic Canada.

To investigate the effects of disease pathogens and parasite load on the survival and recovery of iBoF Salmon, DFO (i.e., the National Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory System) and the Atlantic Salmon Federation should work together in taking the following three-step approach to addressing this question:

  1. assess the feasibility of non-lethally testing (for example, serologically – blood sample testing) smolts exiting rivers and adults returning to rivers for indicators of existing health issues/exposure to disease that may be playing a role in poor survival in the marine environment
  2. if non-lethal testing is feasible, conduct a focused study to identify presence of pathogens
  3. for identified pathogens, initiate target studies to assess the incidence of disease in wild iBoF Salmon populations (for example, fish susceptibility and sub-lethal and lethal effects of identified pathogens) and determine whether disease is an obstacle to iBoF Salmon recovery
16. Examine the relationship between the growth of Salmon aquaculture activities in the Bay of Fundy and iBoF Salmon survival rates (table 3)

Although populations of Salmonids (Salmon and Sea Trout/Brook Trout [Salvelinus fontinalis]) are seen to naturally fluctuate, a possible connection between the declines in wild Salmon populations and the development of the aquaculture industry in various locations has been hypothesized. Understanding the impacts of open net pen farming on wild Salmon populations and the marine environment and the extent of any relationship between the growth of the Salmon aquaculture activities in the Bay of Fundy and iBoF Salmon survival rates could help implement measures to reduce any risk this activity may present to the survival or recovery of iBoF Salmon. The implementation of this measure would also contribute to the broader analysis described of measure 11.

The following activities should be undertaken:

  • compile existing scientific knowledge on the impacts of open net pen farming on wild Salmon populations and the marine environment and undertake a comprehensive literature review of the temporal and spatial growth of Salmon aquaculture activities in the Bay of Fundy (also informed in part by measure 10)
  • analyse information for correlations between historic changes in iBoF Salmon population distribution and abundance and environmental changes in areas of Salmon aquaculture activities

The implementation of this measure could also have potential relevance to other Salmon populations in the Bay of Fundy.

17. Continue the monitoring and management of sea lice on fish farms and improve understanding of impacts of sea lice on wild iBoF Salmon.
a. Continue to use and improve fish farm sea lice mitigation, monitoring and management measures (table 2)

Sea lice are a naturally occurring marine parasite found on many wild and farmed fish stocks around the world, but their populations vary from area to area. High levels of sea lice can harm Salmon and make them vulnerable to other potentially fatal infections. Although farmed salmon enter the net pen lice free, they can become infected because sea lice travel on ocean currents and other aquatic organisms including wild Salmon. Sea lice move freely between hosts both in the wild and within farms; their transfer between hosts can be exacerbated in high density net pen situations. Because sea lice are part of the marine environment, Salmon farmers have developed management practices to reduce the likelihood and severity of infestation when they occur.

In 2013, the NBDAAF and DFO developed of an Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM) (PDF) strategy for sea lice in NB. The goal of the IPMS is to provide a comprehensive, strategic framework that promotes the health and welfare of farmed Atlantic Salmon, including the prevention, research, monitoring and control strategies required to manage sea lice on fish farms. The Plan combines preventative farming practices with approved treatment products for use on farms when necessary. The IPM strategy includes a data collection and analysis component, and a sea lice monitoring program that, among other things, helps ensure that potential impacts to marine resources are reduced.

The IPM strategy also provides for minimizing potential impacts to wild aquatic resources in the surrounding environment of fish farms in NB, including potential impacts to iBoF Salmon. It is reviewed annually to ensure that goals and principles continue to be met, and a yearly performance report is developed, completed and made publically available. Via the IPM strategy, the management and mitigation of sea lice on fish farms in NB should continue to be used and improved as new information and technology becomes available.

b. Improve understanding of sea lice abundance and movement in the Bay of Fundy and potential effects on wild Salmon in the waters outside fish farms (table 3)

The NBDAAF has an active farmed fish disease surveillance program in NB, however, outside the immediate environs of Salmon farms there is no similar program monitoring sea lice abundance in the Bay of Fundy, or sea lice effects on wild Salmon. The infectiveness of sea lice varies with larval development stage (at the immature copepodite life stage specifically), time of year and sea water temperature. Their long distance transport on ocean currents and the extended viability of these parasites in cold sea water allows sea lice to be well situated for possible encounters with seaward migrating Salmon smolts.

Little is known about the temporal and spatial movement of infective sea lice throughout the Bay of Fundy and their potential impact on wild Atlantic Salmon. Literature and field research is required to assess the movement and thus potential impact of sea lice propagules (juvenile and egg life stages that aid in the dispersal of the species) in the Bay of Fundy on wild iBoF Salmon. Research should take into account the motion of water, and be focused on migratory corridors used during the mid-April/early-July period when Salmon smolts are most vulnerable to infestations. Research should also include the areas near Digby, St. Mary’s Bay and Shelburne NS where Salmon move up the shore before re-entering the Bay of Fundy during the feeding migration (Lacroix 2012).

A sea lice monitoring program outside fish farms both at sites near and on rivers some distance from fish farms would improve the understanding of sea lice abundance and movement in the Bay of Fundy and the potential effects on wild Salmon in the waters outside fish farms. Existing sea-lice monitoring programs outside of fish farms in other countries should be examined to help inform the best approach for the Bay of Fundy.

The implementation of this measure could also potentially benefit other Salmon populations in the Bay of Fundy area.

c. Develop sea lice data-sharing protocol from all sources (table 3)

Sea lice monitoring programs are fundamental to the understanding of sea lice dynamics. A database (called Fish-iTrends Decision Support System) of sea lice abundance on Salmon farms in NB has been developed by and is maintained by the Atlantic Veterinary College for use by the Atlantic Canadian salmon farming industry. The aquaculture industry collects sea lice data which is shared with regulators (i.e., the NBDAAF). Although farm specific data is confidential, yearly trends are posted on the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association website which is available to the public. A protocol for sharing all sea lice data (farm and non-farm) from all sources (industry, government, non-government) should be developed. Data sharing would help improve understanding of sea lice abundance in the Bay of Fundy, facilitate analysis of the potential effects on wild salmon, and facilitate improvement of sea lice mitigation strategies.

18. Prevent and mitigate impacts of escaped farmed Salmon
a. Periodically review and improve containment and escapee management regimes for marine fish farms (table 2)

Farm fish escape management is regulated by NBDAAF in NB. A Code of Containment for Culture of Atlantic Salmon in Marine Net Pens in New Brunswick (the “code”) has been developed by the Salmon farming industry (i.e., the New Brunswick Salmon Grower’s AssociationFootnote 8 (NBSGA) 2008) in collaboration with NBDAAF and DFO. Complementing the code is the New Brunswick Governance Framework for Containment Management of Marine Salmonid Farms, developed in 2009 by the NBDAAF and DFO in consultation with industry. These documents are aimed at preventing farmed Salmon escapes from marine aquaculture sites in NB, and establishing protocols, requirements and recapture mechanisms to be followed in the event of escapes. Reviewing the existing escapee management regimes in these documents on a periodic basis is a collaborative process, during which all aspects of net pen location and infrastructure, equipment standards, inspection and maintenance, protocols and reporting are discussed and updates are made to the documents as necessary. A review of the documents was initiated in 2014-2015. An Aquaculture Containment Liaison Committee (NB ACLC), which includes governments, industry and non-government organizations, was established in January 2017 to continue this review. This collaborative periodic review process should continue and improvements to the documents and containment systems should be undertaken to identify opportunities for improvements and collaboration to the containment management of salmon aquaculture in NB as new relevant information and technologies become available. Reviews should consider predator net removal protocols and its impact on probability of escapes, and whether current containment nets and infrastructure can withstand the more frequent and intensive storms currently experienced and expected with further climate change. Reviews should also consider strengthening regulations on the reporting of escapes.

b. Develop a code of practice for identifying farmed Salmon escapes (table 2)

Recapturing escaped Salmon in the marine environment is challenging, therefore preventing escapes is the preferred approach. In the event of an escape, however, better codes of practices for identifying farmed Salmon are needed. The possible impacts of aquaculture escapes on wild populations of Atlantic Salmon are outlined in the recovery strategy. Farmed Salmon escapes can occur through low-level “leakage” and events such as storms which can cause containment pen breaches. Farmed Salmon have escaped fresh water hatcheries and marine net pen sites in the Bay of Fundy and it is suspected that they have remained in or ascended iBoF rivers. Historically, farmed escapes were identified by “broom” tails and gross fin erosion, but the identification of farmed escapes based on external appearance is becoming increasingly difficult as a result of improved industry rearing practices. Scale analysis (Lund and Hansen 1991) is a more accurate technique but can be difficult to employ in the field. New codes of practice that are practical and effective in the field (possibly genetic or physical marking programs) are needed to ensure the safe and immediate removal of escaped Salmon without harming wild Salmon. A multi-partner federal-provincial-industry-fishery committee has been established in Nova Scotia in 2015, the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Salmon Traceability Committee (NSASTC), to facilitate a forum for discussion and creation of an aquaculture salmon traceability program to address issues related to the traceability of escaped farm salmon, including positive identification tools. The work of this committee should continue to be supported.

19. Continue to improve the planning and operation components of aquaculture facilities to mitigate potential threats to iBoF Salmon (table 2)

As new information and technology have become available, improvements have been made to aquaculture planning and operations practices. Aquaculture Activities Regulations have been developed to clarify operating conditions, harmonize reporting, and clarify specific environmental monitoring and sampling requirements across Canada. With respect to planning, risk assessments to determine appropriate donor stock (the only approved Atlantic Salmon stock for marine cage culture in Atlantic Canada at this time is the Saint John River strain) and site selection for hatcheries and Salmon farms are ongoing and should continue as new information, methods and technologies are acquired. Regarding operations, improvements to monitoring and management of sea lice, and the prevention and mitigation of escaped farmed Salmon are outlined in previous measures. Improvements to other aspects of aquaculture operations including containment, fish health management, effluent management, education and training for aquaculture workers and measures to reduce the impacts of predators, are also ongoing and should continue as new information, methods and technologies are acquired. The implementation of the above approaches aimed at improving planning and operations will require the continued collaboration between multiple agencies and groups.

The report ‘A New Regulatory Framework for Low-impact/High-value Aquaculture in Nova Scotia’ (Doelle and Lahey 2014) provides a series of recommendations now being used by the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (NSDFA) in developing the new regulatory system for aquaculture in NS. These recommendations may also be of value for consideration in NB.

The implementation of this measure will also have potential benefits to other Salmon populations in the Bay of Fundy.

20. Continue research into alternative farmed Salmon production methods and strategies (table 3)

Concerns over the spread of disease and sea lice and interactions between wild and farmed Salmon has prompted efforts towards the innovation and development of new technologies, including closed-containment systems, to help achieve sustainable resource development objectives. Closed-containment systems include a wide range of technologies and operating systems from ocean closed-caged to land-based closed-containment systems, with varying degrees of isolation and environmental interactions. Exploration into the feasibility of establishing commercially viable land-based Atlantic Salmon farm is an evolving global trend; such efforts are currently being pursued in Denmark and Chile. The feasibility of land-based closed-containment Atlantic Salmon operations in NS has also been studied (Gardner Pinfold Inc. 2014). ASF in partnership with the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, United States, has been supporting research into land-based closed containment Salmon aquaculture since 2011, and has supported two international workshops on this topic (September 2012 and April 2014). Two land-based Salmon aquaculture farms (established in 2000 and 2005) are currently operating in the iBoF region of NS. Marine closed-cage technology is also being developed in many other jurisdictions, particularly Norway. Research into the feasibility and viability of environmentally sustainable alternative Salmon aquaculture technology should continue. The development of such technology could have important future application to the current Salmon aquaculture industry and if broadly adopted has the potential to alleviate many of the concerns to the iBoF Salmon from current aquaculture practices.

The implementation of this measure will also have potential benefits to other Salmon populations in the Bay of Fundy and elsewhere in eastern Canada.

Recovery Objective 3: Identify and remedy anthropogenic threats limiting survival and/or recovery of iBoF Salmon in the freshwater environment.

A wide range of ecological effects on rivers, including effects on habitat quality and quantity are believed to be caused by barriers in freshwater. Several measures within this action plan are aimed at addressing these effects by improving freshwater habitat quantity (i.e., restoring connectivity) (Measure 21), improving freshwater habitat quality (measure 22), and supporting work of multi-stakeholders forums in assisting groups in freshwater habitat restoration initiatives (measure 23).

21. Improve/restore connectivity to iBoF Salmon freshwater habitat

Although low marine survival is believed to be the leading cause of iBoF Salmon population declines and the main factor hindering recovery, factors acting during the freshwater phase of the life cycle, such as barriers and their impact on habitat connectivity, may also impair recovery.

A number of specific activities should be undertaken to improve connectivity in iBoF Salmon freshwater habitat and these can be divided into the three sub-measures outlined below. The implementation of this measure may be a valuable precursor to measure 22 which speaks to improving freshwater habitat quality, particularly at priority sites. Removal or remediation of tidal barriers in iBoF Salmon estuaries is addressed in measure 12.

a. Map and prioritize sites for remediation (table 2)

With priority to iBoF Salmon critical habitat rivers and the lower segments of other priority watersheds as outlined in the recovery strategy and the Context and Scope section of this action plan, existing watercourse crossings should be:

  1. digitally mapped and described, and their passability to juvenile and adult Salmon assessed
  2. assessed for impacts on watershed connectivity using established tools and methods (for example Côté et al. 2009)
  3. using the above information, prioritize barrier sites for remediation. The prioritization planning should include consideration of the cost of remediating each crossing as well as any need to restrict the spread of invasive species and/or increase the productivity of native forage species for iBoF Salmon such as gaspereau (Alosa spp.)
b. Explore opportunities to plan and implement barrier remediation at priority sites (table 2)

Implementing barrier remediation will typically involve collaboration with landowners and other partners. Funding sources and regulatory permissions will have to be sought in advance. As outlined in Measure 12b for tidal barrier remediation, offsetting options and identified DFO FPP priorities is one potential manner to implement freshwater barrier remediation projects.

c. Maintain connectivity at new watercourse crossings (table 1)

Connectivity should be maintained at all new watercourse crossings by undertaking the following activities:

  1. consider the use of new and improved watercourse crossing designs when feasible
  2. share information about optimal crossing designs with proponents
  3. with priority to critical habitat rivers, undertake compliance monitoring at watercourse crossings during and after construction to ensure that new structures are properly designed and installed
22. Improve freshwater habitat quality

Many iBoF headwater streams flow through lands used for farming, forestry, commercial or residential purposes. Freshwater habitat in iBoF Salmon rivers is threatened by the effects of agriculture, urbanization, poor forestry practices, mining, road building and other factors related to human activities (DFO 2010). Some of the effects from these human activities could include direct sediment entry into iBoF rivers leading to impacts on iBoF Salmon (i.e., embedding spawning sites and suffocating eggs) and degradation of riparian zones (i.e., interface area between land and the river or stream) resulting in the destabilization of stream banks, increased water temperature and increased sediment loading. Although the recovery strategy indicates that freshwater habitat quality is sufficient to maintain populations despite ongoing degradation, effects from local conditions may act on populations within individual rivers and could impact recovery if survival in the marine environment increases. Efforts to minimize local effects to fish habitat, particularly in critical habitat and other identified priority rivers should be undertaken.

The following specific activities are needed to improve freshwater habitat quality.

a. Continue to take a multi-user approach to maintaining freshwater habitat quality (table 2)

Provincial departments of Environment and Natural Resources play a role in maintaining freshwater quality in aspects related to regulatory permissions, water quality monitoring, data interpretation and data sharing. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has a history of assisting watershed groups to reduce potential impacts of agriculture on freshwater habitat and also working with provinces and producers on best management practices, as well as researching the effects of agricultural practices on the environment. These practices should continue and relevant information should be shared with habitat restoration groups as appropriate to inform the identification and prioritization of areas for improvement as described in ‘b’ and ‘c’ below.

b. Identify and prioritize areas that would benefit from improved habitat quality (table 3)

Specific problem areas needing habitat restoration work (for example, areas affected by sedimentation, areas requiring riparian revegetation) should be identified (considering all direct and indirect sources of impacts), described in terms of their specific issue and needs, mapped and prioritized for restoration. Priority should be given to iBoF Salmon critical habitat rivers and other identified priority rivers.

c. Implement projects and initiatives to restore habitat quality in identified priority sites in iBoF watersheds (table 2)

Implementing freshwater habitat quality restoration projects will typically involve collaboration with landowners and other partners. Restorative works have been conducted to date in iBoF watersheds by various non-government organizations, industry and Aboriginal groups with guidance from provincial and federal regulatory bodies. As outlined in measure 12b and 21b, funding sources and regulatory permissions will have to be sought in advance, and offsetting options and identified DFO FPP priorities is one potential manner to implement freshwater habitat restoration projects. Work should be undertaken in collaboration with implementation of Measure 21 to ensure correspondence between the identification of priority areas for restoration and the greatest benefit is achieved.

d. Develop and distribute public education materials on how to maintain habitat quality (table 3)

Educational materials could be created and distributed to landowners, industry, and local watershed user-groups to encourage the use of best management practices designed to maintain water quality.

23. Continue the work of multi-stakeholder forums that develop and share information to support stakeholders in leading restoration and enhancement activities (table 2)

Many different groups and organizations are involved in watercourse enhancement/rehabilitation initiatives in both NB and NS. An organizational structure, such as a multi-stakeholder forum, is helpful in enabling the various freshwater recovery initiatives to proceed in an efficient, collaborative, standardized and prioritized manner.

Since 2006, the Fundy Model Forest, a not-for-profit registered organization aimed at enhancing and restoring healthy forest ecosystems, has led the multi-stakeholder Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Habitat Stewardship Forum. This Forum is focused on iBoF Salmon and general Atlantic Salmon freshwater habitat issues, and includes participants from government organizations, non-government organizations, First Nations, Aboriginal organizations, industry, research organizations and other stakeholders.

The objectives of the Forum are to build capacity among its members, identify collaboration opportunities, fulfill communication and training needs and develop and deliver tools for data collection and analysis for planning and restoration initiatives. To date, the Forum has delivered workshops in NB and is partnering with Adopt-A-Stream to deliver workshops in NS. The Forum’s activities should progress to be more “hands-on” as they work to develop and share standardized data collections and best practices, exchange knowledge and assist groups with habitat stewardship activities focused on iBoF Salmon critical habitat rivers and other identified priority iBoF watersheds.

24. Examine whether smolts are leaving iBoF rivers earlier and at a smaller size than in the past (table 3)

Recent studies have raised concern that smolts are leaving some rivers earlier, and at a smaller size than in the past and thus missing the “optimum environmental migration window” (Friedland et al. 2012, Russel et al. 2012). Data analysis should be initiated to examine whether this is occurring in iBoF rivers by comparing the run timing of smolt on the Big Salmon River in the late 1960s early 1970s to those in the 2000s. For comparative purposes, this review could be expanded to include other iBoF rivers that have long term data sets. If this phenomenon is observed, further work should be initiated to identify what factors might be causing earlier migration, whether this might be limiting iBoF Salmon survival and recovery, and what actions may be required to address this concern.

25. Explore and implement measures to limit the spread of aquatic invasive species (table 3)

Invasive species can negatively impact local fish populations through various means, including direct predation, competition, habitat displacement, alteration of the forage base and disease. Although invasive species are not specifically identified as a threat in the iBoF Salmon Recovery Strategy, they are considered a significant threat to native fish communities and the Recovery Team has raised concerns. Invasive species have been observed in areas identified as critical habitat for iBoF Salmon and other priority rivers, for example, Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) are present in Folly Lake (part of Folly River, NS) as well as in the Petitcodiac River and Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) have been found in the Big Salmon River, NB.

Existing federal and provincial measures can be used to control the movement of invasive species. The federal Fisheries General Regulations (section 56), whose application follows the National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms (PDF), regulates the movement of fish in general and has application for invasive species. NS has new regulations (Live Fish Possession Regulations) that prohibits the moving of live fish and an initiative to develop the same is underway in NB.

Despite this, additional measures are needed and could include: greater fines and penalties for illegal introductions, increased awareness including the development and distribution of educational materials, legislation to support the mandatory destruction or retention of any individual aquatic invasive species captured, development of early detection mechanisms for invasive species before populations are established, and implementation of control techniques/ mechanisms with a high potential for success based on proven research and feasibility. Problem areas for implementation should be prioritized for iBoF rivers containing critical habitat and other identified priority rivers. The successful implementation of this measure would require dialogue, engagement and collaboration between fisheries managers, non-government organizations and recreational anglers.

26. Undertake research that examines freshwater threats related to changes in environmental conditions, contaminants and depressed population phenomena (table 3)

In addition to those addressed above, the iBoF Salmon Recovery Strategy outlines a number of other freshwater threats to the survival and recovery of the species. These include changes in environmental conditions, contaminants and depressed population phenomena (for example, abnormal behaviour due to low abundance or inbreeding depression). Research in these areas should be undertaken to learn more about these threats, identify which factors are most limiting to iBoF Salmon recovery and which mitigation options would provide the most effective improvements.

Recovery Objective 4: Assess population status, sustainability and recovery feasibility

27. Assess annual status of Big Salmon River wild Salmon population (table 1)

The status of iBoF Salmon populations has typically been assessed using data from the two most studied rivers: Big Salmon River, NB and Stewiacke River, NS. Salmon assessment activities on the Big Salmon River have been ongoing since the mid-1960s and are important to determine the status, sustainability and recovery feasibility of wild Big Salmon River Salmon, as well as to make inferences about the status of the broader iBoF Salmon population assemblage. The Big Salmon River is currently the only iBoF river for which wild iBoF Salmon abundance is assessed annually. Assessment activities on other rivers are undertaken mainly to evaluate the LGB program’s success (see measures under Objective 1). However, returning adult Salmon on the Gaspereau River have been annually captured, sampled and genotyped and yearly smolt monitoring in the Stewiacke River commenced in 2014 similar to the Big Salmon River assessment.

Completing the Big Salmon River assessment involves monitoring activities (i.e., capturing and estimating smolt and adult Salmon abundance) as well as genetic analysis to determine origin (wild or LGB). The monitoring activities and genetic analysis undertaken to complete the assessments described in both this measure and Measure 28 below are one in the same and are described below.

  1. smolt monitoring: Smolts exiting the Big Salmon River are monitored using a rotary screw trap. A portion of the smolts captured during the entire smolt migration period (early-May to mid-June) are retained for the LGB program. All retained smolts are tissue sampled and tagged for later identification. The genetic analysis provides the information necessary to determine the origin of the migrating smolts (whether they are the progeny of wild individuals or from the LGB program). A portion of the remaining captured smolts are also marked before release to provide a population estimate via mark recapture methods.
  2. adult monitoring: the number of wild adult Salmon returning to the Big Salmon River is estimated annually based on diver observation counts of Salmon in the major holding pools. If a sufficient number of returning adults are observed, these holding pools are seined and fish are tissue sampled and marked before release. In the fall (typically mid-to-late October), divers snorkle the river and count the number of marked vs unmarked fish. The divers’ observation rates obtained by this mark recapture technique provide an estimate of adult returns. Genetic material is also collected and analysed from all captured adults to determine their origin (wild or LGB).
  3. return rates: The mark recapture results, and the results of the genetic analysis, are used to determine a population estimate of the wild origin smolts exiting the Big Salmon River, as well as a population estimate of wild returning adults. The information is used to determine yearly smolt-to-adult return rates (i.e. marine survival – how many smolts survive in the marine environment and return as adults to the river).
28. Assess success of various LGB strategies on the Big Salmon River (table 1)

The success of the various LGB strategies being used on the Big Salmon River must be evaluated to inform recovery efforts on this river and throughout the iBoF and thus recovery feasibility for iBoF Salmon overall. This work is ongoing and required for as long as the LGB program is needed to ensure the survival and recovery of iBoF Salmon.

Wild and wild-exposed LGB Salmon are monitored as migrating smolts during the smolt monitoring activities described in Measure 27. Genetic sampling and analysis is used to determine the life history stage at which the LGB fish were released into the river, and from which family they originated. This information is used to determine optimal release strategies and families.

LGB return adults are also monitored during the adult monitoring described in Measure 27. Genetic sampling and analysis of all captured adult returns is used to determine their origin (family and release strategy) to assess which LGB Salmon were most successful in surviving to the marine phase.

Marine survival rates of LGB origin Salmon can then be estimated using the population estimates of LGB origin smolts and returning LGB origin adults in a given year.

29. Continue to conduct periodic broad scale juvenile electrofishing surveys in iBoF rivers (table 3)

Abundance of iBoF Salmon in non-monitored rivers has typically been assessed by electrofishing to monitor juvenile abundance. Broad scale electrofishing surveys were carried out from 2000 to 2003. The results of those surveys suggested ongoing river-specific extirpations or abundances so low they could not be detected. In 2014, another broad scale juvenile electrofishing survey in a large subset of iBoF rivers provided an update of salmon presence relative to the last broad scale juvenile electrofishing surveys. Preliminary results from the 2014 survey suggest that juvenile abundance remains low or absent in the non-LGB supported iBoF rivers (DFO 2016a). This work offers an index to assess the overall status of iBoF Salmon in non-LGB supported rivers by comparing with population abundance information gathered on LGB supported rivers and the past broad scale electrofishing surveys. These broad scale surveys should continue to be conducted on a periodic basis (for example, 10 year intervals). The information will assist in evaluating progress toward recovery (i.e., establishment of self-sustaining populations).

30. Adaptively manage LGB activities in support of recovery in Nova Scotia iBoF rivers (table 1)

The Stewiacke and Gaspereau rivers are the two principal LGB rivers in NS. The LGB strategy on the Stewiacke River has consisted of releasing Salmon of various life stages (currently limited to unfed fry and adult salmon), and collecting parr (from equalized families) in the fall by electrofishing and smolts in the spring using fyke nets at targeted sites. Fish collections for the LGB on the Gaspereau River are undertaken by collecting sea-run adults in the fish ladder and smolts captured in the downstream bypass at the White Rock hydroelectric facility.

Recent analyses of salmon genetic material collected in both of these watersheds indicates that parental origin and numbers of parents contributing to adult returns can be estimated using these data. However, the analysis is restricted to only a few sites and/or subset of rivers.

Determining the best LGB strategy for NS iBoF rivers is informed by the following activities:

  1. periodic juvenile electrofishing survey of the Stewiacke River and/or analyzing genetic samples collected from emigrating smolts (for example, collected by rotary screw trap in the spring). This can provide information on numbers of wild and LGB parents contributing to the Stewiacke River and inform future decisions on LGB activities aimed at maintaining the fitness of iBoF Salmon on this river
  2. collection of smolts and sea-run adults on the Gaspereau River as described above
  3. collection of parr and smolts on the Stewiacke River as described above
  4. analysis (to be completed in 2016) of Gaspereau and Stewiacke river data
31. Assess the success of LGB strategies in the Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon rivers (table 1)

This measure is similar to measure 27 for the Big Salmon River, as Fundy National Park operates rotary screw traps (RST) and monitors adult returns on the Upper Salmon and Point Wolfe rivers to assess populations in each river as well as the effectiveness of release strategies.

In addition to an assessment tool to estimate in-river survival of various release strategies and inform adult return rate estimates, RSTs are also used to collect smolts for LGB and/or other supportive rearing programs to produce fish for later release back into Fundy National Park rivers.

The following activities will continue to assess the status of populations on the Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon rivers and contribute to the LGB program in Fundy National Park rivers.

  1. smolt monitoring to assess release strategy effectiveness and overall river population condition
  2. annual adult return monitoring via snorkel surveys to estimate rates of marine survival for migrating smolts

Objective 5: Communicate and increase the general awareness of the status and recovery of iBoF Salmon

32. Encourage the involvement of new and existing partners in recovery efforts (table 1)

Existing Recovery Team members are actively engaged in iBoF Salmon recovery efforts. There may, however, be other potential partners interested in participating in recovery efforts. Efforts should be made to engage new potential partners via promoting media coverage of recovery efforts and projects, and through targeted direct communication (for example, emails, phone calls, and letters) with specific groups (for example recreational watershed users). All partners are encouraged to explore new and innovative recovery approaches for iBoF Salmon.

33. Promote and host recovery team meetings as opportunities for communication and collaboration among all team members (table 1)

The Recovery Team, first formed in 2000, continues to meet twice annually and meetings are an opportunity for members to discuss current and planned recovery measures, emergent issues and new and innovative recovery approaches. Topic-specific working groups are occasionally assembled to address specific issues and a DFO Science-led Planning Group reviews specific scientific projects. A summary of the Recovery Team’s key functions are outlined in the recovery strategy, and current Recovery Team membership is included in appendix C.

Given the potential SARA listing of other populations of Atlantic Salmon in the Maritimes Region of DFO, the structure, function and scope of the iBoF Salmon Recovery Team may need to be re-evaluated in coming years.

34. Encourage compliance and voluntary stewardship actions (table 1)

Communication tools (for example, pamphlets, signage placed near rivers) should be developed that are specifically designed to encourage compliance among those engaged in activities impacting iBoF Salmon and its habitat (for example, critical habitat or residence (i.e., redds)). These communication tools and any new tools (for example, use of media campaigns/events, social media, and posters/stickers) should aim to change behaviours and encourage voluntary actions that would benefit the species.

35. Communicate key milestones in recovery and new knowledge and discoveries (table 2)

Many different organizations contribute to the protection and recovery of iBoF Salmon and it is important for everyone, including the general public, to be aware of significant developments. Information about key recovery efforts and milestones should be communicated (for example, media coverage and/or annual newsletters) to raise awareness among interested parties, to focus and encourage the efforts of those involved in recovery efforts and to encourage new partners to become involved.

1.3 Implementation schedule

The Implementation Schedule presents the recovery measures to be taken to implement the recovery strategy and are organized within three tables (tables 1, 2 and 3) depending on identified responsible party and/or collaborators. To facilitate linkages, the recovery measures described in each table are organized in the same numerical order as the corresponding measures presented in the preceding section.

Table 1 identifies the recovery measures to be undertaken by DFO or PCA, though these may involve participation or collaboration from other parties. Table 2 identifies the recovery measures to be undertaken by other parties, though DFO or PCA may be involved as a lead, participant or collaborator. Where available, these tables include additional details such as proposed monitoring methods, priority of each measure, threat(s) or concern(s) being addressed and the status and timeline for completion of each measure. Some measures are multi-faceted and collaborative in nature and can only be successful if a range of participants are involved. Consequently, certain measures are split into sub-measures which appear in more than one of the tables. Table 3 presents those measures which would be desirable to undertake in support of the species’ survival or recovery, but which currently have no identified lead or partners. These activities may offer good opportunities for interested groups to become involved in the recovery of iBoF Salmon. If your organization is interested in participating in one of these measures, please contact the Species at Risk Maritimes Region office at xmarsara@mar.dfo-mpo.gc.ca; 1-866-891-0771.

Table column headings

Recovery measures: The recovery measures column lists the activities or actions that will be taken to implement the recovery strategy, including those to achieve the population and distribution objectives and address the threat(s) or concern(s) to the species. They are linked directly to the recovery objectives and approaches provided in the recovery strategy and are relevant to the geographic scope of the action plan. Where appropriate, it includes the method for monitoring the recovery measure.

Recovery approach: The recovery approach column lists the numbered approach(es) to which the stated recovery measure relates. The numbers correspond to those outlined in section 1.1 of this plan.

Lead and partners: The lead and partner column lists the organization expected to implement the stated recovery measures whether as a lead or as a partner. This action plan is also intended to encourage other groups to become involved and these future partnerships may not be completely captured within this document at this time. The following is a list of acronyms used in Implementation tables 1 and 2.

AAFC:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
AAS:
Adopt-A-Stream
ACFFA:
Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association
ASF:
Atlantic Salmon Federation
BSR:
Big Salmon River
CBWES:
CB Wetlands and Environmental Specialists
CCNB:
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
DFO:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
FFFN:
Fort Folly First Nation
FMF:
Fundy Model Forest
GASP:
Gaspereau River
MAPC:
Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council
MCG:
Mi'kmaw Conservation Group
NB-ACLC:
New Brunswick Aquaculture Containment Liaison Committee
NBDAAF:
New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries
NBSC:
New Brunswick Salmon Council
NGO:
Non-government Organization
NOAA:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NSASTC:
Nova Scotia Aquaculture Salmon Traceability Committee
NSDFA:
Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture
NSPI:
Nova Scotia Power Incorporated
NSSA:
Nova Scotia Salmon Association
NSTIR:
Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal
OTN:
Ocean Tracking Network
PCA:
Parks Canada Agency
PFRC:
Petitcodiac Fish Recovery Coalition
PWR:
Point Wolfe River
SMU:
Saint Mary’s University STEW:
Stewiacke River
UNB:
University of New Brunswick
USR:
Upper Salmon River

Priority: Priority levels (low, medium or high) are assigned to reflect the direct contribution a recovery measure is expected to have on addressing the stated threat or concern under the relevant recovery objective, and thus the degree to which the activity, if completed, is expected to contribute to the survival or recovery of iBoF Salmon. It does not take into account the priorities and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations, but may be used to inform decisions on funding as well as departmental and conservation priorities.

  • high priority measures are considered those most likely to have an immediate and/or direct influence on attaining the recovery objective for iBoF Salmon and thus considered to be most urgently needed to ensure the species’ survival or of highest importance for the species’ recovery. In some cases, a high priority action may be an essential precursor to a measure that contributes to the recovery of the species
  • medium priority measures may have a less immediate or less direct influence on reaching the recovery objectives, but are still important for recovery of iBoF Salmon populations
  • low priority recovery measures will likely have an indirect or gradual influence on reaching the recovery objectives, but are considered important contributions to the knowledge base and/or public involvement in, and acceptance of, measures required for iBoF Salmon survival and recovery

Threats or concerns addressed: The threats or concerns addressed column includes the main threat to the survival or recovery of the species or concern being addressed by the stated recovery measure.

Status/timeline: The status and timeline column reflects whether an activity has been initiated (i.e., underway), or is a new activity, and the estimated timeline to complete the measure from the date of publication of the final action plan or whether the measure is meant to be ongoing over time (i.e., continuous).

Table 1. Recovery measures for iBoF Salmon to be undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or Parks Canada Agency
# Recovery measures Recovery approach Lead and partner Priority Threats or concern addressed Status/timeline
1

Continue the iBoF Salmon Live Gene Bank (LGB) program with ongoing activities at Mactaquac and Coldbrook Biodiversity Facilities.

  1. continue to provide river-specific and locally adapted iBoF Salmon to the four principal rivers: Stewiacke, Gaspereau, Big Salmon and Point Wolfe
  2. continue to provide iBoF Salmon to other rivers with priority to those identified in the recovery strategy’s short term target: Debert, Economy, Folly, Great Village, Portapique and Upper Salmon
1.1

Lead:
DFO – BSR, STEW and GASP

PCA – PWR

Partners:
Recovery Team members
Academia (partners on project specific basis)

High Conserve the genetic characteristics of iBoF Salmon;
Depressed population phenomenon

Underway/continuous

Annual assessment activities and program reviews on a 5-year cycle

2 Undertake genetic analyses of adult returns to the Big Salmon River and Gaspereau River to assess origin of spawners. 1.2; 4.2

Lead:
DFO – BSR, and GASP

Partners:
Various Recovery Team members

High Minimize the loss of fitness; Minimize loss of genetic variation; Maintaining local adaptations

Underway/continuous

3

Optimize LGB mating strategies to improve the marine survival component of fitness.

  1. capture the genetics of fish that survived at sea or were progeny of those that returned from sea
  2. incorporate those individuals (their representative genetics) into the mating plan
  3. collect and spawn offspring of known multiple-recruit spawners
1.2

Lead:
DFO

Partners:
FFFN, NSSA

High Minimize loss of fitness; maintain wild adaptations

Underway/developmental with research trials likely over the next 3 years

4 Annually collect wild-exposed iBoF Salmon to maintain a large effective population size for each of the four principal LGB populations: Big Salmon, Stewiacke, Gaspereau and Point Wolfe rivers. 1.3

Lead:
DFO – BSR, STEW and GASP

PCA – PWR

Partners
FFFN, NSSA, MAPC, MCG

High Loss of genetic diversity; maintenance of minimum effective population sizes; depressed population phenomenon

Underway/annually

5

Maintain new LGB approach for Fundy National Park rivers, PWR and USR.

  1. spawn PWR high ancestry Salmon and release juvenile progeny back into Fundy National Park rivers
  2. collect sufficient numbers of wild-exposed high ancestry stock from Fundy National Park rivers for future broodstock with a target of 100 annual matings
  3. release surplus high ancestry fish at various life stages including adults to produce future generations of captive-free juveniles to supplement populations
  4. assess captive stock as required to monitor genetic variation and inform strategy direction and/or the development of mating plans
  5. continue to adapt strategies to favor recovery based on current state of scientific knowledge
4.2

Lead:
PCA

Partners:
FFFN, DFO

a,b c  High
d,e Medium
Loss of fitness; extinction/extirpation of iBoF Salmon populations

Underway/continuous

6 Annually collect and analyze tissue samples to monitor the rate of loss of genetic variation for Big Salmon, Gaspereau, and Stewiacke river populations. 1.3

Lead:
DFO – BSR, STEW and GASP

Partners:
MAPC, MCG

Medium Loss of genetic diversity

Underway/annually

7 Develop annual mating plans for the three principal LGB populations managed by DFO: Big Salmon, Gaspereau, and Stewiacke rivers. 1.3 Lead:
DFO
High Risk of inbreeding; loss of genetic diversity

Underway/annually

9

Identify areas of marine and estuarine critical habitat for iBoF Salmon in an amended recovery strategy.

  1. develop estuarine and marine critical habitat description for inclusion in an amended recovery strategy
  2. develop a Schedule of Studies to outline any research activities that need to be undertaken
2.1 and 2.2 Lead:
DFO
a. High
b. High
Lack of knowledge of estuarine and marine habitat characteristics; destruction of habitat

a. Underway/within 1 to 2 years

b. Underway/within 1 to 2 years

21

Improve/restore connectivity to iBoF Salmon freshwater habitat.

  1. maintain connectivity at new watercourse crossings
3.2

Lead:
DFO

Partners:
NGOs, Industry, PCA, Landowners

High Freshwater barriers to fish passage

Underway/continuous

27

Assess annual status of the Big Salmon River wild Salmon population.

  1. monitor smolts
  2. monitor adults
  3. calculate return rates
4.1

Lead:
DFO

Partners
FFFN, PCA

High Assessment of population sustainability and progress towards recovery

Underway/continuous and annual

28 Assess the success of various LGB strategies on the Big Salmon River. 4.2

Lead:
DFO

Partners:
FFFN

High Conservation of the genetic characteristics of iBoF Salmon

Underway (frequency needs to be evaluated)

30

Adaptively manage LGB activities in support of recovery in Nova Scotia iBoF rivers by:

  1. conducting periodic juvenile electrofishing survey on the Stewiacke River and/or analyzing genetic sample collected from emigrating smolts
  2. collecting smolts and sea-run adults on the Gaspereau River
  3. collecting parr and smolts on the Stewiacke River
  4. analyzing the data collected in b and c
4.2

Lead: (a, b, c)
DFO

Partners:
NSPI, FFFN, MAPC

  1. High
  2. Medium
  3. Medium
  4. High
Conservation of the genetic characteristics of iBoF Salmon; loss of fitness

Underway/continuous

31

Assess the success of LGB strategies in Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon rivers by:

  1. monitor smolts to assess effectiveness of strategies in river
  2. monitor adult returns to assess effectiveness of strategies in marine environment
4.2

Lead:
PCA

Partners:
FFFN, DFO

a. b. High Extinction/extirpation of iBoF Salmon populations Underway/frequency to be evaluated
32 Encourage the involvement of new and existing partners in recovery efforts. 5.1

Lead:
DFO

Partners:
Other government partners and Recovery Team members

Medium Lack of public awareness and involvement Underway/continuous
33 Promote and host Recovery Team meetings as opportunities for communication and collaborations among all team members. 5.2 Members of the Recovery Team; DFO High Extinction of iBoF Salmon populations Underway/continuous
34 Encourage compliance and voluntary stewardship actions. 5.2

Lead:
DFO

Partners
Members of Recovery Team

Medium Lack of public awareness and compliance Underway/continuous
Table 2. Recovery measures for iBoF Salmon to be undertaken collaboratively between the Fisheries and Oceans Canada or Parks Canada Agency and their partners
# Recovery measures Recovery approach Lead and partner Priority Threats or concern
addressed
Status/timeline
8 Promote the recovery of iBoF Salmon on the Petitcodiac River : Develop and implement a 5-year plan for the conservation marine net pen project on the Petitcodiac River, evaluate the effectiveness of this recovery approach and determine next steps. 1.1

Lead:
FFFN

Partners:
AMEC (for NB DELG), PCA, UNB, DFO

High Extirpation of iBoF Salmon from the Petitcodiac River; loss of genetic diversity

Underway/plan development within 1 year

Plan implementation over next 5 years

10

Determine movement and migration of smolts to:

  1. improve characterization of marine habitat mortality
  2. identify and implement actions to mitigate marine threats to post-smolts, depending on the stressor identified
2.1 and 2.3

Lead:
DFO

Partners:
ASF, OTN, FFFN, PCA, NOAA, University partners

High Environmental shifts/changes impacting feeding areas, migration routes and at-sea survival Underway/
2017 to 2020
12

Remove/modify tidal barriers in iBoF Salmon estuaries to restore connectivity.

  1. regularly update, improve and share the Bay of Fundy Tidal Barrier Database
2.3

Lead:
CBWES

Partners:
SMU; NSTIR

a. Medium Barriers to fish passage Not Started/continuous
13

Quantify, monitor and explore further mitigation options for bycatch in marine fisheries.

  1. correlate current iBoF Salmon habitat use with fisheries data
  2. collaborate with fishers, with increased monitoring, recording and reporting, to quantify current bycatch levels
  3. assess potential additional mitigation options and implement measures to minimize bycatch in high risk areas
2.3

Lead:
DFO

Partners:
Fishing industry, University partners, NGO

  1. Medium
  2. Medium
  3. High
Bycatch of iBoF Salmon in marine and estuarine fisheries Not Started/long-term
15

Investigate the effects of disease pathogens and parasite load on survival and recovery of iBoF Salmon by:

  1. assess the feasibility of non-lethally testing smolts exiting rivers and adults returning to rivers for indicators of existing health issues/exposure to disease.
  2. conduct a focused study to identify presence of pathogens
  3. for identified pathogens, initiate target studies to assess the incidence of disease in wild iBoF Salmon and to determine whether disease is an obstacle to iBoF Salmon recovery
2.3

Co-leads:
DFO, ASF

Partners:
Academia

a, b. c. High Endemic diseases in iBoF rivers; disease outbreaks on aquaculture farms; transmission of disease via parasites Underway/4 years starting in 2015
17

Continue the monitoring and management of sea lice on fish farms and improve understanding of impacts of sea lice on wild iBoF Salmon.

  1. continue to use and improve fish farm sea lice mitigation, monitoring and management measures
2.2

Lead:
Salmon farming industry, NBDAAF

Partners:
NSDFA, ACFFA, pharmaceutical industry

High Transmissioin of sea-lice from aquaculture farms to wild salmon Underway/long-term
18

Prevent and mitigate impacts of escaped farmed Salmon

  1. periodically review and improve containment and escapee management regimes for marine finfish farms
  2. develop a code of practice for identifying farmed Salmon escapes
2.4

a. NB-ACLC
(i.e., ACFFA, NBDAAF, NSDFA, ASF, NBSC, CCNB, DFO, others as deemed appropriate)

b. NSASTC (i.e., NSDFA, aquaculture industry, recreational fishery, DFO, Commercial lobster fishery, others as deemed appropriate)

Medium Aquaculture escaped Salmon interbreeding with wild iBoF Salmon

a. Underway/periodically

b. Underway/
within 2 years

19 Continue to improve the planning and operation components of aquaculture facilities to mitigate potential threats to iBoF Salmon. 2.4

Lead:
Provincial regulators

Partners:
Aquaculture industry, ASF, DFO

Medium Farmed/wild Salmon interactions Underway/continuous
21

Improve/restore connectivity to iBoF Salmon freshwater habitat.

  1. map and prioritize sites for remediation
  2. explore opportunities to plan and implement barrier remediation at priority sites
3.2 Partners:
NGOs; Industry; PCA; Landowners
High Freshwater barriers to fish passage Underway/ongoing until completed

22

Improve freshwater habitat quality.

  1. continue to take a multi-user approach to maintaining freshwater habitat quality
  2. implement projects and initiatives to restore habitat quality in identified priority sites in iBoF watersheds
3.2 Partners:
NGOs, industry, Aboriginal groups
a. Medium
b. Low
Degradation and decreased carrying capacity of freshwater habitat Underway/continuous (Annually)

23

Continue the work of multi-stakeholder forums that develop and share information to support stakeholders in leading restoration and enhancement activities. 3.2

Lead:
FMF

Partners:
AAS, AAFC

Medium Degradation of freshwater habitat Underway/continuous

35

Communicate key milestones in recovery and new knowledge and discoveries. 5.1 Members of the Recovery Team Low Lack of public awareness/knowledge Underway/continuous
Table 3. Recovery measures that represent responsibilities and/or opportunities for other jurisdictions, organizations or individuals to lead
# Recovery measures Recovery approach Threats or concern
addressed
11

Examine long-term changes in environmental conditions in the Bay of Fundy and compare with past and present habitat use and anthropogenic threats to identify possible relationships.

  1. collect and analyse past and present predator and prey composition, abundance and distribution data in the Bay of Fundy
  2. collect and analyse past and present chemical and physical habitat quality characteristic data of the Bay of Fundy
  3. conduct a multivariate analysis to correlate findings from a. and b. with existing and new iBoF habitat use information
  4. identify any areas where ongoing or proposed anthropogenic activities may threaten habitat quality and quantity
2.1 Environment and ecological community shifts impacting habitat quality
12

Remove/modify tidal barriers in iBoF Salmon estuaries to restore connectivity.

  1. explore opportunities to plan and implement tidal barrier remediation at priority sites
2.3 Barriers to fish passage
14 Improve understanding of marine predation on iBoF Salmon populations. 2.3 Ecological community shifts impacting at-sea survival
16

Examine the relationship between the growth of Salmon aquaculture activities in the Bay of Fundy and iBoF Salmon survival rates.

  1. compile existing scientific knowledge about the impacts of open net pen farming on wild salmon populations and the marine environment and undertake a comprehensive literature review of the temporal and spatial growth of Salmon aquaculture activities in the Bay of Fundy
  2. analyse information for correlations
2.3 Interactions between wild iBoF and farmed Salmon; potential for disease/sea-lice transmission and genetic interbreeding
17

Continue the monitoring and management of sea lice on fish farms and improve understanding of impacts of sea lice on wild iBoF Salmon.

  1. improve understanding of sea lice abundance and movement in the Bay of Fundy and potential effects on wild Salmon in the waters outside fish farms
  2. develop sea lice data-sharing protocol from all sources
2.2 Presence of sea-lice outside aquaculture farms
20 Continue research into alternative farmed Salmon production methods and strategies. 2.4 Farmed/wild Salmon interactions, potential for disease/sea-lice transmission and genetic interbreeding
22

Improve freshwater habitat quality.

  1. identify and prioritize areas that would benefit from improved habitat quality
  1. develop and distribute public education materials on how to maintain habitat quality
3.1 Degradation of habitat and water quality
24 Examine whether smolt are leaving iBoF rivers earlier and at a smaller size than in the past. 3.3 Unknown freshwater threats to survival and recovery
25 Explore and implement measure to limit the spread of aquatic invasive species. 3.4 Competition and predation by non-native species
26 Undertake research that examines freshwater threats related to changes in environmental conditions, contaminants, and depressed population phenomena. 3.1, 3.3 and 3.4 Lack of understanding of freshwater threats to iBoF Salmon survival and recovery
29 Continue to conduct periodic broad scale juvenile electrofishing survey in iBoF rivers. 4.1 Extinction of iBoF Salmon populations

2 Critical habitat

2.1 Identification of the species’ critical habitat

Critical habitat is defined under section 2 in the SARA as the “habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species”.

Habitat of aquatic species at risk is further defined under subsection 2(1) in the SARA as:

“spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, migration and any other areas on which aquatic species depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes, or areas where aquatic species formerly occurred and have the potential to be reintroduced”.

Critical habitat for iBoF Salmon has been identified to the extent possible in section 2.5 of the recovery strategy (DFO 2010). The recovery strategy identifies freshwater critical habitat areas in ten rivers: Gaspereau, Stewiacke, Debert, Folly, Great Village, Portapique, Economy, Upper Salmon, Point Wolfe and Big Salmon rivers. The recovery strategy also contains details about this identified critical habitat including its geographical location and biophysical functions, features and attributes. A Schedule of Studies (section 2.5.3 of the recovery strategy) outlines research activities required to help identify potential areas of estuarine and marine critical habitat.

Since the publication of the recovery strategy in 2010, DFO has undertaken a science peer review process in November 2012 to provide an update and synthesis of information to help inform on important marine and estuarine habitat for iBoF Salmon. A Science Advisory Report was produced (DFO 2013). Advice from this process is being used to inform the development of an estuarine and marine critical habitat identification and a revised Schedule of Studies to be included in an amended recovery strategy. This work is underway. See recovery measure 9.

2.2 Examples of activities likely to result in destruction of critical habitat

Examples of activities likely to result in the destruction of freshwater critical habitat are outlined in section 2.5.2 of the recovery strategy (DFO 2010). Examples of activities likely to results in the destruction of estuarine and marine critical habitat will be included with the identification of this critical habitat in the amended recovery strategy.

2.3 Proposed measures to protect critical habitat

Under SARA, critical habitat must be legally protected from destruction within 180 days of being identified in a final recovery strategy or action plan and included in the Species at Risk Public Registry. The final iBoF Salmon Recovery Strategy was published to the Registry in May 2010. Accordingly, as required by SARA, on August 7, 2010 the Minister of the Environment published a SARA subsection 58(2) description for those portions of critical habitat within Fundy National Park (namely in those sections of the Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon rivers within the park boundaries) in the Canada Gazette thereby invoking the SARA subsection 58(1) prohibition against the destruction of the identified critical habitat (PCA 2010). This prohibition came into effect on November 5, 2010.

Pursuant to SARA subsection 49(1)(c) an action plan must include an identification of any portions of the species’ critical habitat that have not been protected. With respect to the protection of all other iBoF Salmon freshwater critical habitat outside Fundy National Park, DFO is accomplishing this by making a SARA subsections 58(4) and (5) Critical Habitat Order, which invokes the prohibition in subsection 58(1) against the destruction of the identified critical habitat. With the making of this Critical Habitat Order, all identified iBoF Salmon critical habitat becomes legally protected. It is nonetheless important to note that existing tools already available under various other federal, provincial, and municipal legislation or regulations also continue to be relevant with respect to iBoF Salmon critical habitat. Any additional critical habitat identified in an amended recovery strategy will also be protected via a Critical Habitat Order.

3 Evaluation of socio-economic costs and of benefits

The Species At Risk Act requires that an action plan include an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation (SARA 49(1)(e), 2003). This evaluation addresses only the incremental socio-economic costs of implementing this action plan from a national perspective as well as the social and environmental benefits that would occur if the action plan were implemented in its entirety, recognizing that not all aspects of its implementation are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. It does not address cumulative costs of species recovery in general nor does it attempt a cost-benefit analysis. Neither does it address the cost of past actions undertaken by government and partners or the cost of the social and cultural loss of access to the species by Aboriginal people and Canadians. Its intent is specifically to inform the public and to guide decision making on implementation of the action plan by partners.

3.1 Background

In Canada, the iBoF Salmon was listed in 2003 as endangered under the Schedule 1 of SARA. As such, the species benefits from legal protection and mandatory recovery requirements which are administered by DFO (Government of Canada 2003).

A general summary of recovery initiatives undertaken in the recent past is outlined in the species profile on the SAR Public Registry (Government of Canada 2012) as well as in section 2.8 of the recovery strategy (DFO 2010). As noted in section 1.3 of this action plan, many of these initiatives have been made possible by successful collaborations among governments, industry, environmental organizations, universities and other organizations/groups. Future recovery efforts, such as those detailed in this action plan, are dependent upon the continued collaboration among these many organizations and groups. For each measure contained in this action plan, a list of the groups currently or potentially involved is provided in tables 1, 2 and 3.

3.2 Methodology

SARA requires the responsible federal minister to undertake “an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation” (Government of Canada 2002). This section identifies the anticipated socio-economic impacts associated with the proposed measures listed in tables 1, 2 and 3. The evaluation attempts to address the costs and benefits that would be anticipated to occur if the action plan is fully implemented. The analysis only considers costs and benefits which are incremental to the baseline (for example, costs/benefits associated with new activities or enhancements to existing activities that are above-and-beyond what is part of current practice or formal commitments). Costs and benefits that are real or reasonably expected to occur are included while those of a highly speculative or uncertain nature are not. An order-of-magnitude estimate of potential costs and benefits is provided where sufficient information is available to provide an evaluation. Otherwise, a qualitative statement regarding potential impacts is provided.

Costs and benefits associated with the identification and protection of critical habitat for the iBoF Salmon are not considered in this evaluation. A detailed analysis of the incremental impacts associated with the protection of iBoF Salmon critical habitat will be completed as part of the regulatory process associated with the Critical Habitat Order (see section 2.3).

3.3 Costs of implementation

Many of the measures listed in this action plan represent a continuation of current activities or responsibilities and commitments of DFO and/or other groups into the foreseeable future (i.e., designated as underway). Many of these actions are related to the Live Gene Bank program (LGB), salmon population monitoring activities and actions associated with ongoing activities of the Recovery Team. Unless there is an indication that these activities would cease in the absence of this action plan they are considered to be a continuation of the baseline. It is assumed that these activities would carry no incremental costs.

Certain measures may require large scale investments in excess of $100,000 each. These may include investments to cover the costs associated with the smolt tracking work (measure 10) as well as the total costs of the numerous activities that could be undertaken to increase activity or enhance work currently underway in the areas of: the removal/modification of tidal barriers (measure 12), the improvement/restoration of connectivity of iBoF Salmon freshwater habitat (measure 21) and the improvement of freshwater habitat quality (measure 22).

A number of the measures which related to undertaking additional research and analysis may each require smaller-scale investments in the range of tens of thousands of dollars by DFO, the fishing industry, environmental groups, or other organizations to enhance current knowledge.

For several of the listed measures, insufficient information is available to provide an assessment of potential costs. For example, the costs of the measures associated with aquaculture operations (measures 17, 18, and 19) are not known at this time as specific new activities have not been identified. Similarly, the cost of any potential mitigation options to minimize bycatch in high risk areas (measure 13) are unknown at present, as are the costs of specific measures to limit the spread of aquatic invasive species (measure 25). Furthermore, the costs to identify and implement actions to address marine threats to post-smolts are also unknown at present. As a result, costs associated with full implementation of this action plan cannot be assessed at this time.

3.4 Benefits of implementation

Atlantic Salmon, including the iBoF Salmon, is an iconic Canadian species which remains socially and culturally significant to the Aboriginal people and local communities of Atlantic Canada. It also had significant economic and recreational value historically supporting commercial and recreational salmon fisheries. The species is also regarded by the general public as a barometer of the health of the natural environment and seen by most people of Atlantic Canada as an important natural symbol. Implementation of this action plan will support the ongoing efforts of government and partners, and the conservation and potential restoration of these values by promoting the recovery of iBoF Salmon.

The overall goal of the iBoF Salmon recovery is to re-establish wild, self-sustaining populations as required to conserve the genetic characteristics of the remaining anadromous iBoF Salmon. It is expected that the implementation of this action plan would result in an important contribution towards this goal. The re-establishing of iBoF Salmon populations would be facilitated by achieving the five prioritized recovery objectives outlined in Section 1.1. Detailed descriptions and explanation of each of the identified recovery measures is provided in Section 1.2.

This action plan may also result in benefits to other species and the ecosystem as a whole. In particular, many of the stated measures would be beneficial to other populations of Atlantic Salmon as well as other species located within the inner Bay of Fundy area.

Many of the benefits derived from biodiversity conservation, including the protection and recovery of species at risk, are non-market commodities that are difficult to quantify. SARA recognizes that “wildlife, in all its forms, has value in and of itself and is valued by Canadians for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological, and scientific reasons” (SARA Preamble, S.C. 2002, c. 29). A review of the literature confirms that Canadians value the preservation and conservation of species in and of themselves. Actions taken to preserve a species, such as habitat protection and restoration, are also valued. In addition, the more an action contributes to the recovery of a species, the higher the value the public places on such actions (Loomis and White, 1996; Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2008). Self-sustaining and healthy ecosystems, with their various elements in place, including species at risk, contribute positively to the livelihoods and the quality of life of all Canadians.

3.5 Distributional impacts

As outlined in section 1.2 and 1.3, implementation of this action plan will require collaboration among many organizations and groups, involving not only Fisheries and Oceans Canada but also other jurisdictions, organizations and individuals. This includes contributions from various levels of government, non-governmental organizations, the fishing and aquaculture industries, Aboriginal groups, universities and others. It is also possible that new groups would become involved in future recovery efforts. Probable partners for each measure are noted in tables 1 and 2. However, at this time it is not possible to determine the extent to which each of these groups would contribute (financially or otherwise) to this action plan. Likewise, precise benefits to individual groups cannot be estimated at this time, but are discussed broadly in section 1.2.

4 Measuring progress

The recovery measures outlined in this action plan will help to achieve the population and distribution objectives described in the recovery strategy. When implemented, the measures are expected to advance the recovery of the iBoF Salmon in Canada. The performance indicators presented in the associated iBoF Salmon Recovery Strategy provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution objectives.

Reporting on implementation of the action plan (under section 55 of SARA) will be done after five years by assessing progress towards completing the recovery measures identified.

Reporting on the ecological and socio-economic impacts of the action plan (under section 55 of SARA) will be done by assessing the results of monitoring the recovery of the species and its long term viability, and by assessing the implementation of the action plan.

5 References

  • COSEWIC. 2001. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar (Inner Bay of Fundy populations) in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 52 pp.
  • COSEWIC. 2006. COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Atlantic Salmon (Inner bay of Fundy populations) Salmo Salar in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. viii + 45 pp.
  • COSEWIC. 2010. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar (Nunavik population, Labrador population, Northeast Newfoundland population, South Newfoundland population, Southwest Newfoundland population, Northwest Newfoundland population, Quebec Eastern North Shore population, Quebec Western North Shore population, Anticosti Island population, Inner St. Lawrence population, Lake Ontario population, Gaspé-Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population, Eastern Cape Breton population, Nova Scotia Southern Upland population, Inner Bay of Fundy population, Outer Bay of Fundy population) in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xvii + 136 pp.
  • Côté, D., Kehler, D.G., Bourne, C., and Wiersma, Y.F. 2009. A new measure of longitudinal connectivity for stream networks. Landscape Ecology 24: 101-113.
  • DFO. 2008. Estimation of the Economic Benefits of Marine Mammal Recovery in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Policy and Economics Regional Branch, Quebec 2008.
  • DFO. 2009. Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy. http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/policies-politiques/wasp-pss/wasp-psas-2009-eng.htm.
  • DFO. 2010. Recovery Strategy for the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), inner Bay of Fundy populations. In Species at Risk Act recovery strategy series. Ottawa: Fisheries and Oceans Canada. xiii + 58 pp. + Appendices.
  • DFO. 2013. Important Marine and Estuarine Habitat of Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2013/054.
    http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/SAR-AS/2013/2013_054-eng.html
  • DFO. 2016a. Updated information on fishing bycatch of Atlantic Salmon, Inner Bay of Fundy population, and its impact on the survival or recovery of this Atlantic Salmon designatable unit (DU) (PDF). DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Resp. 2016/023. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2016/mpo-dfo/Fs70-7-2016-023-eng.pdf  
  • DFO. 2016b. Departmental Forward Plan for Atlantic Salmon: Analysis and Strategy to Advance the Recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Atlantic Salmon. Released June 20, 2016.
    http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/peches-fisheries/comm/forwarding-plan-eng.html
  • Doelle, M. and W. Lahey. 2014. A new regulatory framework for low-impact/high-value aquaculture in Nova Scotia. Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University. 175pp.
  • Fraser DJ, MW Jones, TL McParland, JA Hutchings. 2007. Loss of historical immigration and the unsuccessful rehabilitation of extirpated Salmon populations. Conservation Genetics8:527- 546.
  • Friedland K.D., J.P. Manning, J.S. Link, J.R. Gilbert, A.T. Gilbert and A.F. O’Connell Jr. 2011. Variation in wind and piscivorous predator fields affecting the survival of Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar, in the Gulf of Maine. Fisheries Management and Ecology 19: 22-35.
  • Friedland K.D., J.P. Manning and J.S. Link . 2012. Thermal phenological factors affecting the survival of Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar, in the Gulf of Maine. In: R. Stephenson, J. Annala, M. Hall-Arber & J. Runge (eds) Advancing ecosystem research for the future of the Gulf of Maine. Besthesda, MD: American Fisheries Society, Symposium
  • Gardner Pinfold Consultants Inc. 2014. Feasibility of land-based closed-containment Atlantic Salmon operations in Nova Scotia (PDF). Report submitted to the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. 47pp. http://novascotia.ca/fish/documents/Closed-Containment-FINAL.pdf
  • Government of Canada. 2002. Species at Risk Act S.C. 2002, c.29.
  • Government of Canada. 2003. Species at Risk Act, A Guide. ISBN 0-662-67439-1 Cat. No. CW 66-225/2003. http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/archives/Guide_e.cfm
  • Government of Canada. 2012. Species at Risk Public Registry. Species Profile: Atlantic Salmon Inner Bay of Fundy population. http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=672&docID=27
  • Lacroix, G.L. 2012. Migratory strategies of Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) postsmolts and implications for marine survival of endangered populations. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 70(1): 32-48.
  • Lacroix, G.L. 2014. Large pelagic predators could jeopardize the recovery of endangered Atlantic Salmon. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 71(3): 343-350.
  • Loomis, J.B. and D.S. White. 1996. Economic Benefits of Rare and Endangered Species: Summary and Meta-analysis. Ecological Economics, 18: 197-206.
  • Lund, R. A., and Hansen, L. P. 1991. Identification of wild and reared Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., using scale characters. Aquaculture and Fisheries Management, 22: 499–508.
  • Marshall, T.L. 2013. Inner Bay of Fundy (iBoF) Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) marine habitat: proposal for important habitat. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2013/071.
  • New Brunswick Salmon Growers Association. June 2008. Code of containment for culture of Atlantic Salmon in marine net pens in New Brunswick (PDF). Version 1.0. 17pp. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56e827cb22482efe36420c65/t/570ed80db09f950e801cde72/1460590605851/2008_NBSGA_Code_of_Containment_June_2008.pdf
  • O’Reilly, P.T. and C.C. Kozfkay. 2014. Use of microsatellite data and pedigree information in the genetic management of two long-term Salmon conservation programs. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries. DOI 10.1007/s11160-014-9347-9 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11160-014-9347-9
  • Parks Canada Agency. 2010. Description of critical habitat of the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon in Fundy National Park of Canada. Canada Gazette 144(32): 2160-2161. http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=1959
  • van Proosdij, D. and P. Dobek. 2005. Bay of Fundy Tidal Barriers GIS Database Development (PDF). Final Report prepared for Environment Canada, Atlantic Division and Gulf of Maine Council for the Marine Environment. 38 pp. http://www.bofep.org/danika_marsh/vanProosdij_Dobek2005finalreport.pdf

Appendix A: effects on the environment and other species

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010), SARA recovery planning documents incorporate strategic environmental assessment (SEA) considerations throughout the document. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making and to evaluate whether the outcomes of a recovery planning document could affect any component of the environment or achievement of any of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s (FSDS) goals and targets.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that implementation of action plans may inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the action plan itself, but are also summarized below in this statement.

While the implementation of this action plan is anticipated to benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the iBoF Salmon, the potential for the plan to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. No such adverse effects were identified. This action plan is expected to benefit other species and the ecosystem as a whole. In particular, many of the stated measures would be beneficial to other populations of Atlantic Salmon, as well as other species located within the inner Bay of Fundy area. The reader should refer to the sections of the document outlining the recovery actions for specific details on potential environmental benefits of this action plan. Implementation of the iBoF Salmon Action Plan would also help achieve goals of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy (DFO 2009) and the Departmental Forward Plan for Atlantic Salmon (DFO 2016b) in the commitment to restore and sustainably manage healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitats. Furthermore, implementation of the recovery measures in this action plan will contribute to achieving the following FSDS goal: Conserving and restoring ecosystems, wildlife and habitat, and protecting Canadians – resilient ecosystems with healthy wildlife populations so Canadians can enjoy benefits from natural spaces, resources and ecological services for generations to come.

Appendix B: record of cooperation and consultation

To assist in the recovery of iBoF Salmon and the development of this action plan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Maritimes Region collaborated with Parks Canada Agency (PCA) who is responsible for the recovery of this species in the two watersheds contained mainly within the boundaries of Fundy National Park, New Brunswick (NB). DFO also drew upon the expertise and interest of the long-standing multi-stakeholder, multi-interest Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team (the “Recovery Team”). DFO hosted a one-day workshop on November 7, 2012 with interested members of the Recovery Team to provide input and advice into the Implementation Schedule and supporting narratives which were used as a basis for further development of the action plan. Active members involved in the development, review or participating in the implementation of this action plan can be found in Appendix C.

The early draft action plan was reviewed by relevant DFO sector representatives in Maritimes, Gulf and National Capital Regions, as well as relevant Atlantic regional PCA staff. All comments received during these reviews were considered and addressed as appropriate.

The draft action plan was subsequently shared with targeted groups for jurisdictional review and external comment for a 10 week period during October to December 2014. It was shared with the Recovery Team, in addition to other relevant stakeholder and parties as outlined below.

In addition to those provincial representatives on the Recovery Team, the draft action plan was shared with all relevant provincial governments of Nova Scotia (NS) and NB, including NB and NS Natural Resources, NB Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, NS Fisheries and Aquaculture, NS Agriculture, NB and NS Transportation and Infrastructure, NB and NS Environment. The document was also shared for comment with other relevant federal departments including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Aboriginal Peoples have representation on the Recovery Team and their input has been sought through the Recovery Team process. The draft action plan was circulated more broadly for comment to all relevant First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations in NB and NS.

The proposed action plan was published on the Species at Risk Public Registry for a 60-day public comment period (June 9 to August 8 2016). All comments received during both the targeted consultations on the draft action plan described above and the publication of the proposed action plan to the Public Registry were considered to inform the final version of the action plan.

Appendix C: Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team Membership

Appendix C: Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Conservation and Recovery Team Membership
Organization Active membersa
AMEC Earth and Environmental Inc.  and New Brunswick Salmon Council Bagnall, John
Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia Goodfellow, Danielle
Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association House, Betty
Atlantic Salmon Federation Carr, Johnathan (Research and Environment)
Dupuis, Todd (Regional Programs)
Giffin, Geoff (New Brunswick Programs)
Hinks, Lewis (Nova Scotia Programs)
Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Mi’kmaw Conservation Group Coppaway, Clayton
Gillis, Angeline
DFO – Aquaculture Management Cline, Jeff
Webster, Cindy
DFO – Conservation and Protection Bieren, Stacey
Gaudet, Odette
Smith, Vincent
DFO – Communications Gaulton, Luke
Taylor, Suzanne
DFO – Policy and Economics Large, Cory
MacIntosh, Robert
DFO – Resource Management Stevens, Greg
DFO – Science Claytor, Ross
Jones, Ross
Lenentine, Beth (Coldbrook Biodiversity Facility)
O’Neil, Shane
O’Reilly, Patrick
Smedbol, Kent
Whitelaw, John (Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility)
DFO – Species at Risk Management Robichaud-LeBlanc, Kimberly
DFO – Area Director Office SWNB Millar, Harvey (Chair)
DFO – Aboriginal Fisheries Howe, Tom
DFO Fisheries Protection Program Delaney, Leanda (Nova Scotia)
Devine, Richard (Nova Scotia)
Savoie, Fernand (New Brunswick)
Fort Folly First Nation Epworth, Wendy (Habitat Recovery Program)
Knockwood, Joseph
Robinson, Tim (Habitat Recovery Program)
J.D. Irving Limited Gilbert, John
Kings County Wildlife Association Cook, Scott
Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council Hunka, Roger
McNeely, Joshua (IKANAWTIKET – Regional Facilitator)
Nashwaak Watershed Association Inc. Salonius, Peter
New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Coombs, Karen
New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council Wysote, Nathalie
Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Elderkin, Mark
NS Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture LeBlanc, Jason
Nova Scotia Power Nicolas, Jean-Marc
Walmsley, Jay
Nova Scotia Salmon Association Purcell, Carl
Parks Canada Agency, Fundy National Park Clarke, Corey
Daigle, Edouard
Mazerolle, Daniel

a Active membership during development of this action plan.

Appendix D: Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Live Gene Bank Program

The iBoF Salmon Live Gene Bank (LGB) program is a captive breeding and rearing program initiated by DFO in 1998 to reduce the probability of extirpation of iBoF Salmon. This program is unique, and its development has been influenced by a number of factors, including the species’ genetic uniqueness, their imminent risk of extinction, the unknown causes but high level of marine mortality, and the need to harbour and protect the remaining populations.

IBoF Salmon currently appear to be extirpated from most or all non-LGB supported iBoF rivers, and the number of adults returning to any individual river are extremely low. Given that freshwater habitat of iBoF rivers is thought to be of good quality and capable of supporting iBoF Salmon through the freshwater phase of their life cycle, but that marine mortality is high and due to one or more unknown causes, captive rearing is only essential for the marine phase of the life cycle. The current emphasis of the LGB program is therefore not population supplementation, but rather (1) minimizing loss of genetic variation and (2) reducing rates of adaptation to captive conditions, so that population restoration might be feasible at some point in the future if and when marine conditions improve. In other words, the main purpose of the LGB program is to maintain the potential for iBoF Salmon recovery by preserving the genetic base thought to be representative of the population.

The iBoF Salmon LGB program was initiated in 1998. Originally, approximately 1,000 wild parr were collected from the two rivers with the principle Salmon populations representative of the two ecologically distinct halves of the iBoF basin, the Big Salmon River, New Brunswick (NB) and the Stewiacke River, Nova Scotia (NS). These parr were reared to maturity in a biosecure environment in fresh water, mated according to a prescribed mating strategy to limit losses in genetic diversity, and the progeny released broadly throughout suitable native river habitat for exposure to wild river conditions. Additional fish were collected and released in select rivers in subsequent years to either broaden the program or for research purposes. The LGB program is currently focused on four principle rivers: the Stewiacke and Gaspereau in NS, and the Big Salmon and Point Wolfe in NB with associated activities currently undertaken at the DFO owned and operated Mactaquac and Coldbrook biodiversity facilities, in NB and NS respectively.

The program consists of two components: captive and “in-river” live gene banks. These components can be broken down into the following broad steps: the collection of wild-exposed juveniles and their rearing to maturity in captivity, the spawning of adults in captivity, rearing of offspring in captivity, release of offspring into rivers, subsequent recapture of wild-exposed juveniles, return of recaptured juveniles to biodiversity facility for rearing alongside of captive-reared siblings, spawning of mature captive-reared and wild-exposed siblings, and production of offspring and the next generation of Salmon to be released into the wild. See Figure 2 below for a schematic of these steps.

Since the onset of the program (the first releases from the iBoF LGB occurred in 2001), the release of Salmon into iBoF rivers has been part of the “in-river” component of the program, where juvenile Salmon of various ages are released into native river habitat for exposure to the natural environment to allow natural selection to occur. After residing in natural river environment for one to two years for “wild exposure”, a portion of these fish (parr and smolts) is then recaptured by sampling multiple locations throughout the watershed using electrofishing methods, and rotary screw traps located downstream of release locations. These fish are brought back to the biodiversity facility for more captive rearing (i.e., incorporation back into the captive component of the LGB program and reared through to maturity). When mature, a subset of captive-reared and wild exposed siblings is selected for broodstock based on a number of criteria, and mated according to a prescribed strategy for the production of the next generation of iBoF Salmon. To complete the program cycle, the progeny from these crosses are distributed three ways: 400 offspring per family (enumerated and equalized after hatch) are transported and strategically released into a select isolated area of the watershed for incorporation into the “in-river” component of the program, five offspring per family for a total of ~500 individuals are retained for the captive component of the program, and the remaining offspring are released throughout the selected river for supplementation purposes. In this way, Salmon populations are being maintained through supportive rearing while attempting to limit the effects of domestication and selection of deleterious traits during the freshwater phase of the iBoF Salmon life cycle.

Graph. See long description below.
Long description

Figure 2 is a schematic of the general operations of the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon Live Gene Bank program. It is a visual representation of the program description provided in the text already read. It includes both visual and textual information on both the captive and in-river components.

Since the first generation of captive-reared Salmon were genotyped (determination of the genetic constitution of an individual) and pedigreed (determination of the recorded ancestry of an individual), and estimates of family size and the recapture of families from captive and wild environments became available, a number of changes to the demographic or genetic management of the program have taken place and others continue to evolve (for example, use of ranked mean kinshipFootnote 9 in prioritizing and pairing spawners) in efforts to increase the spawning preference given to wild-exposed fish over captive-reared Salmon.

Further details on the evolution and both the demographic and genetic management of the iBoF Salmon LGB program can be found in O’Reilly and Kozfkay (2014).

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