Atlantic Salmon (Eastern Cape Breton Designatable Unit)

Salmo salar

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) is an anadromous fish that is part of the family Salmonidae. Its characteristics include:

  • Fusiform shaped body (tapers at both ends);
  • Juveniles typically grow up to 18cm in length; adults from 50 to 100 cm in length;
  • Juveniles are slender and develop 8-11 narrow pigmented parr marks on each side with a red spot between each parr mark along the lateral line. Fish become silvery and parr marks are lost when they become smolts and migrate to sea;
  • When at sea, salmon are silvery on sides and their back colour varies through shades of brown, green and blue with numerous black spots scattered along the body and;
  • As they approach spawning, they become darker in colour and take on a bronze and dark brown colouration and sometimes have reddish spots on their head and body.

Habitat

Atlantic Salmon spawn in freshwater, generally in the same river in which they were born (natal river). Eastern Cape Breton Atlantic Salmon typically spend two to four years in freshwater as juveniles before migrating to the north Atlantic Ocean. After staying at sea for one to three years, adults return to freshwater to spawn. Rivers that support Atlantic Salmon are generally clear, cool and well-oxygenated, with gravel, cobble and boulder substrates.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has identified 16 different designatable units (DU) of Atlantic Salmon based on their specific adaptations to their natal rivers (e.g., difference in genetics, morphology, life cycle and behaviour). COSEWIC has assessed the biological status of all of the Atlantic Salmon DUs, and determined that 11 DUs are considered to be at risk.

The Eastern Cape Breton DU of Atlantic Salmon consists of a grouping of salmon populations that occupy rivers in a region of Nova Scotia which drain into the Atlantic Ocean and Bras d'Or Lakes and extends from the northern tip of Cape Breton Island along the Atlantic coast to the Canso Causeway. It is believed that Atlantic Salmon from this DU were present in approximately 46 rivers at various times in history.

Threats

The Eastern Cape Breton (ECB) DU of Atlantic Salmon has been assessed by COSEWIC as Endangered. A Recovery Potential Assessment (RPA) in 2013 reviewed the outcomes of adult population monitoring programs on five river systems in the DU and concluded that, over the last 15 years, abundance has declined by 97% and 89% on two rivers and remained relatively stable for two rivers. Abundance increased in one river by 159%, though this is not thought to be representative of the entire DU.

The RPA identified numerous threats to ECB DU Atlantic Salmon. The threat identified as the highest concern in freshwater is illegal fishing and poaching. Threats in estuarine and marine environments identified as having high level of overall concern include, in no particular order, uncertainties around the occurrence of diseases and parasites, salmon aquaculture and marine ecosystem changes. Note that some activities identified may not represent a threat, or may be ranked at a lower severity, after the application of mitigation measures.

Further Information

The Eastern Cape Breton Atlantic Salmon is managed under the Fisheries Act, via the Atlantic Fisheries Regulations 1985, Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations, Fishery (General) Regulations, as well as through licenses issued under the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licence Regulations. Atlantic Salmon habitat is currently protected from serious harm under the fisheries protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.

All commercial fisheries for ECB DU Atlantic Salmon are currently closed for conservation reasons. There are Aboriginal Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) allocations in the area. Recreational hook and release angling may be permitted with barbless hook flies during cool water periods on some rivers within the ECB DU. Conservation, monitoring and research efforts are ongoing, and are being undertaken through collaborative efforts between Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Province of Nova Scotia, Aboriginal organizations and stewardship groups.

Visit the Species at Risk (SARA) Public Registry.

Atlantic Salmon (Eastern Cape Breton Designatable Unit)

Two Atlantic Salmon swimming

Scientific name: Salmo salar
SARA Status: No Status
COSEWIC Status: Endangered (2010)
Taxonomy: Fish (marine)
Region: Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic Salmon distribution

Range of the Eastern Cape Breton Salmon population relative to three other populations in the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Maritimes Region.

Did You Know?

The Atlantic salmon's scientific name is Salmo salar, meaning “the leaper”. These fish can jump up 12-14 feet in the air, allowing them to leap waterfalls and other obstacles when travelling upstream to spawn.

Related information