A group of researchers is tagging salmon in Eastern P.E.I., hoping to determine the health of the ecosystem, and learn more about a particular population thriving in local waters.

They are tracking the fish on their journey from North Lake, across the Atlantic Ocean to Greenland, as they migrate to their feeding grounds, to see how many survive.

Tagging salmon on P.E.I.0:33

"Atlantic salmon are an indicator of a healthy environment," said Scott Roloson, with the Canadian Rivers Institute, who is leading the group. "We need to really step up to protect what we have before it's gone."

In order to tag them, Roloson and his team are doing a little salmon surgery.

They pull young salmon out of the river, quickly sedate them, measure them, and then implant a small tracking device before releasing them.

"It's really hard to contain your excitement," said Roloson.


The research group is set up in North Lake, capturing salmon before they head out to the ocean. (CBC)

Unique genetic signature

The salmon from North Lake are healthy, mostly thanks to conservation efforts by the Souris watershed group, said Roloson, which has worked tirelessly to restore the balance of the population.

They are a unique genetic strain, and are thought to be more successful at making it to the ocean than other types of salmon, he said.

That's why it's important to learn how they survive, and it's what drew the Abegweit Mi'kmaq Nation to the project as well.

"Trying to understand the life cycle of salmon is all part of the biodiversity of the land," said Roger Sark, who is leading a team involved with the project. "And we're just trying to understand that and hopefully that'll benefit the future populations of Atlantic salmon on Prince Edward Island."

Roloson said the first tagged salmon made it into ocean waters Thursday.

"It's really rewarding, and nobody has used these techniques to track salmon before on P.E.I.," he said. "To be able to put our salmon rivers in the broader context of Atlantic salmon conservation is a dream come true really."


Each salmon is measured, with the juveniles between one and three-years-old of interest to the study. (CBC)