In the Maritimes Region, there are two Biodiversity Facilities, one at Mactaquac, New Brunswick, and the other in Coldbrook, Nova Scotia. Their primary role is to maintain the genetic diversity of the Inner Bay of Fundy (iBoF) Atlantic Salmon populations in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The iBoF Atlantic Salmon populations, listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 2003, have been harboured and protected at these Biodiversity Facilities since 1998.
At that time, DFO’s Maritimes Region’s hatcheries were primarily growing Atlantic Salmon for stocking rivers in an effort to improve populations. In spite of these efforts, declines in abundance of Atlantic Salmon and closures of many fisheries dictated a new approach to conservation of populations that has now become the focus for the hatcheries; the development and maintenance of living gene banks.
This was done by collecting juvenile fish from the wild and rearing them at the facilities to produce broodstock which are mature fish or adults, selectively mating these adults to keep the genetic diversity, early release of their offspring into rivers to maximize natural selection in freshwater and later collection of older parr or smolt for renewed production of broodstock.
IBoF Atlantic Salmon populations are genetically distinct from other Atlantic Salmon stocks and have some unique life history traits, such as local ocean migration patterns. Low marine survival is the key factor identified as preventing the rebuilding of the population. What is causing this low marine survival is unknown.
While research is underway to identify the factors limiting recovery and, to prevent the imminent extinction of iBoF Salmon, a gene-banking program and a gene-pedigree program have been developed to maximize the population’s genetic diversity. The overall goal is to maintain the iBoF population in three principle rivers with up to 10 rivers engaged in the captive rearing and release program.
The Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility also collects migrating salmon and other fish at a specially designed fish lift at the Mactaquac Hydroelectric Dam and trucks and releases them upriver of the Dam. Tobique River Atlantic Salmon are also grown at the Mactaquac facility with parr and smolts collected to rear through to adults for release each year.
Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility
The Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility (MBF), located just outside of Fredericton New Brunswick, was built in 1968 following the building of the Mactaquac Hydroelectricity Dam on the Saint John River. The facilities developed at the time included a fish lift at the dam whose primary purpose was to collect fish returning to the dam and truck and release them upriver; and a fish culture facility where a Salmon rearing program was developed to spawn and grow Salmon in captivity for river release (stocking) to compensate for production losses upriver of the dam.
The Main Salmon Hatchery was financed and built by the New Brunswick Electric Power Commission and is operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It occupies a 5.3 hectare site and uses as much as 70 million litres of well and river water each day to rear approximately 2+ million eggs and up to one million fish of various life stages, annually.
Today, the MBF includes the Fish Collection Facility and trucking operation at the dam, a Fish Sorting Facility at the main site, the Early Rearing Facility beside the dam, and the Main Salmon Hatchery, which houses the Live Gene Bank program and a modern lab.
Live Gene Banking
The first collections of fish for the Live Gene Bank program of New Brunswick’s “endangered” Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon were brought into captivity in 1998 to DFOs former Saint John Fish Culture Station. The Mactaquac facility now houses this Live Gene Bank which involves rearing captured wild juvenile Salmon from the Big Salmon River through to the adult stage and their subsequent mating and release of juveniles. All fish are subjected to DNA analysis for stock origin and family grouping so that mating of siblings is avoided and family representation is optimized.
Currently, the LGB yields about 0.5 million eggs per year for re-population of Inner Bay of Fundy rivers and production of next generation juveniles and ultimately broodstock. This program circumvents the current harsh marine conditions affecting the Salmon’s normal life history and maximizes their potential for recovery once conditions for marine survival improve.
Fundy Salmon Recovery Project
The Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility is a partner in the Fundy Salmon Recovery Project, working with Parks Canada and other collaborators to recover the endangered iBoF Atlantic salmon population in New Brunswick’s Upper Salmon River. The Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility houses and rears juvenile salmon that are collected by Fort Folly First Nation from streams in Fundy National Park. These fish grow to maturity here and are spawned to conserve the unique genetic lineage of this population. Their offspring are then released back to their stream of origin. Adult fish that have previously contributed to the broodstock program are released back into the wild to spawn naturally in hopes of contributing to the recovery of the wild population.
Aside from sustaining the freshwater component of the program, the Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility provides a portion of smolts to the first Wild Salmon Marine Conservation Farm in Dark Harbour, NB to grow. Once they reach the adult stage, they are released into the Upper Salmon River. Support for this project includes providing expertise and advice as well as:
- Engaging in field activities such as adult snorkel surveys, fish tagging and fish transportation;
- Participating in the release of mature adult salmon for natural spawning in the Upper Salmon River; and
- Data collection and management.
Tobique River Program
The Tobique River system represents approximately 60% of the spawning habitat of the Saint John River System. In 2001, as a result of a change in program direction, wild juvenile Salmon were captured upstream of the Mactaquac Dam in the Tobique River tributary to be grown at the facility for broodstock and then released (primarily) as adult spawners back into the Tobique River. Prior to this, the program used wild adults that had returned to and were captured at Mactaquac Dam for production and release of parr and smolts. This departure from past practices was due to:
- a rapid decline in the number of adult Salmon returning to the Mactaquac Dam, and
- the ability to grow juvenile fish to adults in freshwater.
Some of these Tobique River broodstock are spawned to produce parr and smolts for stocking and research. Each year, approximately 1,300 fish are released into the Tobique River to spawn in their natural habitat.
Recovery to previous stock numbers is unlikely to occur until marine survival improves. Recovery will be impossible however, without a stable freshwater population of wild juveniles. Adult releases from the captive-rearing program will have the potential to deposit 5+ million eggs for the production of juveniles in the Tobique River upstream of Mactaquac. This will eliminate the need to retain broodstock from valuable wild adults returning to the dam.
The facility also offers visitors a self-guided tour where one can learn about the facilities’ operation, the life stages of Atlantic Salmon and the efforts of DFO and others to restore wild Atlantic Salmon populations.
Travelling east, approximately 19 km (12 miles) west of Fredericton on TransCanada 2, follow the signs at the Mactaquac Dam turnoff.
Travelling west from Fredericton on TransCanada 2, take French Village turnoff and follow the signs to the Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility.
9:00 am to 3:30 pm
May 15 to August 31
Bus tours and school groups welcome by appointment.
For More Information
Mactaquac Fish Culture Station
114 Fish Hatchery Lane
French Village NB
Telephone: (506) 363-3021
Coldbrook Biodiversity Facility
The Coldbrook Biodiversity Facility (CBF) is located in the Annapolis Valley, Kings County, Nova Scotia. Formerly called the Coldbrook Fish Culture Station, it opened in 1938 for the purpose of the enhancement of both trout and Atlantic Salmon. Over the years, the programs and facility infrastructure have changed to accommodate the current program, which is a Live Gene Bank (LGB) for endangered stocks of Atlantic Salmon. The LGB began in Nova Scotia at the former Cobequid Fish Culture Station and was moved to the Coldbrook site in 2000.
The facility site occupies an area of approximately 0.65 hectares and uses as much as five million litres of well and river water each day. There are five buildings on site including a hatchery building where fish are spawned and eggs are incubated; the Hubley Building that houses the 32 rearing tanks; a broodstock building with a dozen tanks for holding parr and adults; a workshop and an office building.
CBF is provided with ideal water quality from Spittal Brook and three wells for the holding and rearing of both juveniles and broodstock Atlantic Salmon. Having access to both surface and groundwater allows for temperature control and flexibility in growing the species at various life stages.
Live Gene Banking
Live Gene Banking (LGB) is the maintenance of the genetic diversity of a particular stock, in this case the endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon. The LGB program includes producing broodstock or adults at the facilities, selectively mating those adults to maintain the genetic diversity, early release of their offspring into rivers to maximize natural selection in freshwater and later collection of older parr or smolt for renewed production of broodstock.
Live Gene Bank fish at the biodiversity facility produce between two and three million eggs annually. This includes eggs from adults released to spawn on their own and up to 1.8 million eggs from fish spawned at the facility and incubated/grown for release as unfed fry.
This program circumvents the current harsh marine conditions affecting the Salmon’s normal life history and maximizes their potential for recovery once conditions for marine survival improve.
In the spring, CBF staff collect juvenile fish (smolts) in bypass traps or fyke nets. In the autumn, fish are also collected by electrofishing. Some of these fish may originally be those released the previous year through the LGB program or may be offspring of wild adults. Adults are collected in the fall when they return to the fish ladder at Whiterock on the Gaspereau River.
The fish are tagged using internal tags (PIT tags) and a tissue sample is taken to genetically code the fish for DNA. Some mature adults are released into their river of origin to spawn in the wild and some are spawned with others based on the DNA information and a specific mating plan.
The offspring of fish spawned at the facility are kept from eggs through to hatch and are released into their river are origin as unfed fry. A portion may be recaptured as 1+ fry the following year and these fish are brought back into the LGB program.
CBF also has a program to recondition wild captured kelts. Kelts are Salmon that have already spawned and have either remained in the river to over-winter or migrated to the ocean. CBF intercepts some of the kelts on their outward migration and holds them in tanks to feed and recondition them until the following fall. This method significantly improves the likelihood of survival of the adults and their contribution to additional egg production in the river of origin. The fish are then released to spawn in their river of capture. This “repeat spawning” is a common trait of Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon.
Previous and current research projects include those with Dalhousie, Memorial and Acadia Universities and have involved tagging studies to learn more about fish movement in the estuaries of Inner Bay rivers or the Bay of Fundy.
The facility partners with universities, colleges and high schools to provide research and learning opportunities for interns and students. Group education sessions may be available depending on program requirements and staff availability.
For More Information
Coldbrook Biodiversity Facility
PO Box 2
Coldbrook, NS B4R 1B6
1420 Fish Hatchery Road, Hwy #1
Coldbrook, NS B4R 1B6
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