Removal of Natural Obstructions to Improve Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout Habitat in Western NL

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Flat Bay Brook and Harry’s River are popular Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout fishing systems in western Newfoundland. As of July 2014, the retention level for Atlantic Salmon on these systems was increased from two to four fish (DFO 2014). Increased fishing pressure may slow or prevent future population growth. Furthermore, large expanses of breeding habitat along Flat Bay Brook and Harry’s River tributaries are inaccessible due to natural obstructions. Active and inactive beaver dams coupled with low water levels can prevent the upstream migration of Atlantic Salmon and instream migration of Brook Trout (Collen and Gibson 2001, Mitchell and Cunjak 2007, Taylor et al. 2010). These obstructions can prevent Atlantic Salmon from accessing upstream spawning habitat, while simultaneously increasing competition for downstream spawning habitat. We propose the removal of natural obstructions along the Sheep Brook, Cold Brook, and Ahwachenjeech tributaries, which will restore natural riverine flow conditions and open approximately 4.5 km of benthic habitat. These restoration activities will increase Atlantic Salmon spawning habitat, allow the in-stream migration of Brook Trout, and will promote sustainable recreational fisheries in western Newfoundland.

The results of this project will be used to determine the short term effects of removing natural habitat obstructions on river health and population dynamics of Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout. Periodic monitoring beyond 2015 will determine long term benefits of removing natural obstructions. This project aligns closely with conservation projects headed under Qalipu Mi’Kmaq First Nation Band’s Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy. Mi’kmaq Alsumk Mowimsikik Koqoey Association (MAMKA) has worked closely with Aboriginal Fisheries Guardians to protect our watersheds from illegal activities, while improving stewardship through river side clean ups and Atlantic Salmon redd, benthic habitat, and obstruction monitoring. This project also aligns closely with MAMKA’s Aboriginal Funding for Species at Risk projects, including monitoring the distribution and abundance of American Eel and Banded Killifish in Newfoundland.