Souris area watershed group and UPEI partner on Atlantic salmon research

Posted: 
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
UPEI researchers measure a male Atlantic salmon in a PEI waterway

The University of Prince Edward Island and the Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation have received $48,000 from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation (ASCF) and $7,000 from the PEI Wildlife Conservation Fund for Atlantic salmon research, monitoring, and conservation in three rivers in Eastern PEI.

Atlantic salmon have declined on PEI and are only present in 20 of the 70 Island rivers they were once thought to inhabit. Despite their precarious status in many of those rivers, salmon numbers in Eastern PEI have been increasing due to the efforts of the watershed group.

Fred Cheverie, watershed coordinator with the Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation, has overseen the conservation and restoration measures that have led to these increases in the Souris area. The previous discovery of a unique genetic strain of salmon in two rivers in the region has ignited further interest in research and restoration of these populations.

“We believe that the native genetic strain of salmon may be more suited to the PEI environment and may be an important key to the re-establishment of wild Atlantic salmon populations across PEI,” said Cheverie.  “However, we need to better understand the optimal environmental conditions in our streams in order to give them a fighting chance.”

Dr. Michael van den Heuvel, director of the Canadian Rivers Institute and a professor at UPEI, and his students Scott Roloson and Carissa Grove have been working with the Souris and Area Wildlife Branch watershed group to better understand the conservation implications of the genetically unique and possibly ancestral strain of Atlantic salmon in the northeastern cluster of rivers in Souris and Area Wildlife Branch’s management area. Previous work, funded by the PEI Wildlife Conservation Fund and the Regis and Joan Duffy Foundation, has been ongoing in partnership with the Souris group. 

“I believe researchers working hand in glove with the boots-on-the-ground conservations efforts of watershed groups will help us turn around the fate of wild Atlantic salmon stocks on PEI,” said Dr. van den Heuvel. “As compared to the large iconic salmon rivers, funding for Atlantic salmon research and monitoring is thin on PEI. The ongoing support of ASCF and the PEI Wildlife Conservation Fund is absolutely critical to advancing salmon restoration efforts.”

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island.

Dave Atkinson
Research Communications Officer
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