Nfld. & Labrador

Salmon in St. Mary's Bay: A Land & Sea archival special

In North Harbour River, Rocky River and Colinet River, work was underway in 1985 to increase salmon stocks.

In 1985, work was being done to increase salmon stocks in North Harbour River, surrounding waterways

Atlantic salmon were declining in numbers in provincial waters, even with plenty of good habitat available. (CBC)

Children gathered at the North Harbour River in St. Mary's Bay in 1985, to view salmon in the river through an underground chamber. The experience was interesting for the kids — but for the adults around them, the work would hopefully help ensure that the next generation of children would be able to have the same experience.

Salmon reproduce in the rivers and streams of Newfoundland and Labrador, but numbers for the fish were dropping despite an abundance of habitat in the province. That's why Brian Meaney of the Salmon Association of Eastern Newfoundland in St. Mary's Bay was working at a holding booth at the river from June 1 to Sept. 15 of that year. 

Children gathered by the North Harbour River to learn more about salmon and how they spawn every year. (CBC)

Meaney supervised as salmon were transferred from the holding pen to new spots on the river via helicopter, moving about 30 salmon at a time in a modified firefighting bucket. It was much more efficient and cost effective than building a new road to allow for transfer, he said.

"With salmon, we haven't had a mortality in about four years, so it's a very safe and effective measure of transfer," he said.

Salmon were transferred to new waters using a modified firefighting bucket and a helicopter. (CBC)

The work had begun about three years earlier, said Don Hustins, also with the salmon association. He wanted to get involved in supporting salmon associations in a hands-on way, and the North Harbour River was picked for that work because in the mid-1960s the federal government began a program there to introduce Pacific salmon to the area. 

As with avoiding the construction of another road, using the spawning channel the government already had in place at the North Harbour River saved both time and money for the project, Hustins said.

Newfoundland had the unique advantage of having high water quality for salmon and other fish, and many areas that were still not often fished, Brian Meaney says. (CBC)

The hope was that the project would lead to lasting work for some young people in St. Mary's Bay. Elaine King said she enjoyed the work setting up the salmon traps, then distributing the fry to the Colinet and Rocky rivers. Art Walsh hoped the training he was getting at this job would lead to a permanent position, perhaps with the federal fisheries department, down the road.

"This is the only project that's really giving you the knowledge right now," Walsh said.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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