ALMA (GNB) – A record number of wild, adult inner Bay-of-Fundy Atlantic salmon have been released into the rivers of Fundy National Park thanks to a partnership between First Nations, the aquaculture industry and the federal and provincial governments.

“This is an exciting collaboration between the provincial government, its partners, industry, First Nations and the scientific community to help the Bay of Fundy’s wild salmon population rebound,” said Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet. “Our government is proud of the important role it has played by creating the world’s first designated wild salmon conservation site.”

Nearly 1,000 salmon were released into their native river in the park today during a ceremony that also celebrated the indigenous connection to this species.

“The Fundy Salmon Recovery project is a demonstration of Parks Canada’s leadership in conservation management,” said Fundy Royal MP Alaina Lockhart. “Through innovation and collaboration, Parks Canada is achieving success in the recovery of Atlantic salmon, an iconic species at risk that is valued by Canadians and by Atlantic Canada’s indigenous communities. The growing presence of inner Bay of Fundy salmon in Fundy National Park reflects this government’s commitment to protect and maintain the ecological integrity of this treasured place.”

Lockhart attended for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

The salmon were reared at the world’s first wild salmon aquaculture conservation site near Grand Manan. The site, designated by the provincial department, allows smolts to be held until maturity, ensuring that only salmon ready to spawn are returned to rivers.

“As long standing partners with Fundy National Park, we are proud to be part of this innovative approach in recovery of Atlantic salmon here in the park and on the Petitcodiac River,” said Chief Rebecca Knockwood of Fort Folly First Nation. “Salmon are important to us and are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem on which we all depend. We are happy to have this opportunity to reconnect our youth with the land and this iconic species through this work.”

Atlantic salmon once thrived in the inner Bay of Fundy but the numbers dwindled from 40,000 half a century ago to fewer than 250 by the year 2000. They are now listed as endangered and protected under the Species at Risk Act.

Wild Atlantic salmon populations have been declining dramatically for decades, from their southern range in the United States to their northern range in North America and abroad. Endangered since 2002, the decline of the wild, inner Bay-of-Fundy Atlantic salmon population has been well-documented but poorly understood. The Fundy Salmon Recovery project is working to change that. With a shortened migration limited to the Bay of Fundy, and a portion of their freshwater range protected within Fundy National Park, inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon provide a globally unique research and recovery opportunity.