FREDERICTON, New Brunswick – The Canadian federal government is providing $30 million to conserve and restore wild Atlantic salmon in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
Government sources say the money will be formally announced on Saturday by Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, accompanied by Peter MacKay, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
The money will be deposited into an Atlantic Salmon Endowment Fund.
Last year, two international conservation groups gave Canada a failing grade when it comes to protecting wild Atlantic salmon from the environmental hazards of fish farms.
The biggest problems are in Atlantic Canada, especially in the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest concentration of fish farms in the world.
Wild Atlantic salmon populations have declined drastically over the past 30 years. While there are many factors involved, scientists and conservation groups believe some aspects of aquaculture have contributed to the decline.
Conservation groups noted in 2005 that the number of wild salmon returning to rivers off the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine is significantly down.
The U.S. government in 2000 listed Atlantic salmon as endangered on eight Maine rivers, warning that the species was in danger of extinction.
Federal regulators last year laid out a comprehensive recovery plan for wild salmon in the Gulf of Maine that ranged from better protection of salmon habitat to improved practices at salmon farms where fish that escape their pens could weaken wild salmon through interbreeding.
In Canada, the new fund will be administered by an arm’s-length organization that will invest the $30 million grant, sources familiar with the announcement said.
The income earned on the investment will be used to fund projects that help protect watersheds. The money will go to community organizations working on a range of wild Atlantic salmon habitat, enhancement, monitoring and conservation initiatives.