Empty rivers

Fundy National Park

The collapse of inner Bay of Fundy salmon

At its highest, the inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon population had up to 40,000 adults; by 1999 less than 250 remained. The entire population was facing extinction.

Fundy National Park is home to some of the cleanest and healthiest rivers in the inner Bay of Fundy region, making them very good rivers for young Atlantic salmon to live and grow. However when adult salmon stopped returning from the Bay of Fundy, it happened in every river in the region, including the healthy ones. This showed scientists that the greatest problem facing inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon was low survival in salt water.

The reason for the drop in marine survival is not fully known, but probably has several causes. Not all of the causes are understood, but some may include:

  • too few smolts and adult salmon to form large enough schools or migration runs;
  • ecosystem shifts like changes in the number other fish species, such as alewife, eels, and smelt, or increases in predators;
  • possible effects from industries that utilize ocean water;
  • changes in the marine environment from water temperature changes.

Although the causes of decline were not clear, a simple fact remained; inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon were dying in the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy, and were at risk of never coming back.

Next part: Action in the face of extinction

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