Nfld. & Labrador

Exploits River salmon management impresses Swedish researchers

A delegation from Sweden is taking a lot of notes as they tour dams on the river, hoping to apply best practices back in their home country.

15 person delegation taking notes to apply back home

Salmon stocks are down in Europe, and the Swedish delegation hopes to take tips from this province's success in salmon management. (Courtesy Tom Moffatt/ASF)

A delegation of Swedish researchers is touring the Exploits River, hoping to apply Newfoundland's success in salmon management to their home country, where stocks are dwindling.

"You have a lot of salmon, they did really well with your rehabilitation," Karlstad University researcher Olle Calles told CBC Radio's The Broadcast.

"The river is large, and you have harsh winters like we do in Scandinavia. And still you managed to bypass your dams for the migrating fish."

The Exploits' natural salmon run was manually altered in the 1960s, with salmon ladders built at several dams to help fish swim further upstream and increase the population.

Additionally, fish diversion measures were built at the Grand Falls and Bishops Falls hydroelectric plants. Those measures were a huge success.

Salmon stocks on the Exploits went from about 1,200 fish returns a year in the 1960s to 47,500 in 2010. (CBC)

"That annual run went from a historical 12 to 1,500 fish, to a peak in 2010 of 47,500 fish," said river expert Wilmore Eddy, manager of Exploits generation for NL Hydro.

"We're looking at the work we did as making all the difference."

Word of that success reached Sweden, prompting the 15-person delegation to take a first-hand look.

Technical tips

Calles said in Sweden, the big challenge to salmon has been large scale hydro plants.

"Typically they would move into the power plant, and through the turbines and get injured or even killed. What you want to do then is divert them," said Calles, adding the Grand Falls and Bishops Falls dams have managed to do just that.

"It's a great success. We're here to look at that and to understand the details and how these dam solutions were designed."

A visitor checks out the Grand Falls dam and its salmon diversion system. (CBC)

Calles said it's not only the technical aspects of the Exploits River operation that impresses him.

"The collaboration between the power companies, and the authorities, and the local community NGOs (non governmental organizations), seems to be a great success," he said.

Calles said his team is taking a lot of photographs and technical notes, and hope to sort out what they can use back in Sweden.

With files from The Broadcast