Researchers discover Bras d’Or Lake as location of choice for salmon smoltification


OTN researcher and director of the Bras d’Or Institute at Cape Breton University, Dr. Bruce Hatcher and his research team have conducted an eight-year study on the smoltification process of salmon in the Bras d’Or Lake area.

The study follows salmon from Middle river to Bras d’Or Lake, a unique inland sea ecosystem and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which is home to a group of regionally distinct Atlantic salmon populations. Recent population decreases in the region have sparked concern about the future of this species.

Using acoustic telemetry, the researchers tracked the migrations of juvenile salmon (smolts) in the area, and discovered that approximately half of the tagged fish transited the Bras d’Or Lakes, while a significant portion of fish spent upward of 70 days in the lakes. Findings suggest that the latter population has an alternative resident form, limiting migration within the Bras d’Or. Smolts in good condition tended to be residents, whereas fish in poorer condition were ocean migrants. A covarying effect of river temperature helped predict resident fish vs. ocean migrants.

Results from the study and suggestions for future studies focused on the conservation of dwindling salmon populations can be found here:

Condition-dependent migratory behaviour of endangered Atlantic salmon smolts moving through an inland sea


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