In order to reestablish self-sustaining populations of Atlantic salmon in Lake Ontario and its tributaries, a large number of Atlantic salmon must be stocked into the selected streams to form the basis of a recovering population. In 2006, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) committed to doubling their production to 400,000 fry. They also increased the size of their broodstock to make more eggs available in 2007 and beyond, and developed two additional broodstock populations of different genetic strains, for a total of three – LaHave River (Nova Scotia), Lac St. Jean (Quebec) and Sebago Lake (Maine). We are also evaluating the relative success of various life stages of fish from the three strains.
As the size of broodstock populations expanded, it reduced the capacity of MNRF facilities to produce fry and yearling fish. To meet this challenge, MNRF facilities were upgraded, while some of the funding was used to develop capacity within OFAH clubs and other clubs to raise fish. The MNRF has agreed to be responsible for all broodstock to ensure that the best genetic diversity is maintained and fish health protocols followed.
Additionally, Fleming College’s (FC) Fish and Wildlife Program and Aquaculture Post-Graduate Certificate students operate the college’s fish hatchery facility for Atlantic salmon also. Students at the college participate in all aspects of the Atlantic salmon restoration program, from raising fish in the hatchery, to stream and water quality rehabilitation, to stocking and monitoring fish and habitat quality.
In addition to MNRF, FC and club hatcheries, we will explore alternative ways to increase fry and yearling production, including the use of in-stream or streamside incubators to raise eggs entirely at the stream, and thereby imprint the fish to prime local spawning and nursery habitat sites. These types of systems provide an excellent opportunity to engage the local community in habitat and water quality rehabilitation, local incubation of fish, and volunteer monitoring for returns.