In early October, the Gespe’gewaq Mi’gmaq Resource Council (GMRC) partnered together with Listuguj Fisheries, Department of Energy and Resource Development, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Restigouche River Watershed Management Council Inc., Management of Salmon on the Restigouche and Tributaries (MSRT), and Boston Brook Lodge to collect broodstock from the Little Main Restigouche River. This is the first time all these groups come together to spawn salmon.
Four female and four male salmon were seined from the river and transported to the hatchery in Kedgwick. “We put them to sleep to measure and weight them and administered some antibiotics. They were also put into a 45 minute bath of salt to make sure they don’t have any fungus or bacteria in the containment area” explained GMRC Director of Research Carole-Anne Gillis.
The salmon were kept at the Kedgwick hatchery and monitored on a regular basis until they were ready to spawn. “You take the female and then you slowly push on the belly from a downward movement and then the eggs just slowly start to come. All of the eggs were put into a bassinette, and then we milk the males,” explained Carole-Anne. “So we just add the sperm to the eggs in the bin and stir it up. We let the eggs be fertilized and once they fertilized and harden we add water.”
Based upon the weight of the female salmon, it is estimated that 1000 eggs can be harvested per kilogram. The target goal was to collect 20,000 eggs from the four salmon.
“From 5000 eggs, only two salmon may come back as adults. Survival rates are low. Some eggs will die, and some eggs will be predated on. Some might not be able to emerge, then at each life stage survival rates are low as well”.
The salmon eggs were transported back to the river and placed into Scotty fish egg incubators. “In each scotty box there are five floors with 200 rooms on each floor. So each Scotty box unit stores 1000 eggs. The Scotty fish egg incubators were placed in four locations throughout the Cyr Brook and the Gounamitz River.”
“We are egg planting in habitats above beaver dams that are costly to remove. Beaver dams, although they can be beneficial for the ecosystem are also very detrimental to fish migration,” explained Carole-Anne. “The habitats we will colonize with eggs are excellent for growing salmon, but they are not accessible to spawners because of the beaver dams. That is why we are taking some eggs that are below and distributing them upstream from those fragmentations, and then evaluate their survival rates.” GMRC and Listuguj Fisheries will visit the scotty boxes at the end of June to determine the success of the scotty boxes. The team will also be conducting electrofishing near the areas to verify survival rates.