There is a rich history of fly fishing for Atlantic Salmon in my home province of Nova Scotia. If you visit the East Coast seeking chrome, you will cross paths with many who are 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generation anglers and conservationists. They have seen the decline of our Atlantic Salmon stocks first hand. Their stories never cease to captivate me, as the old guard tells of local river systems that once teemed with these special fish. Rivers that if visited today, would have little to no Atlantic Salmon populations remaining.
Many factors negatively impact our salmon worldwide. In addition, Nova Scotia’s watersheds were significantly affected by acid rain in past years. This decreased our salmon survival by as much as 90 percent. And today, our salmon are considered to be at or near an all time low.
The good news is that various groups are conducting major recovery projects and extensive river restoration work. One river that has been the focus of such work, is the St. Mary’s River in the Southern Upland region of Nova Scotia. Since 2014, the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA), supported by the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA), sponsors and countless volunteers, has spent over $1 million in restoration efforts. This crucial work has yielded proven results. The St. Mary’s River is now home to one of the last sizeable populations of wild Atlantic Salmon on the Atlantic coast of our province. This is truly incredible as The Committee of the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recognizes Atlantic Salmon as endangered in this region.
The St. Mary’s is also home to other species at risk. Wood Turtles can be spotted while paddling the river, nesting on sandy river banks. If you’re lucky, Mainland Moose may be seen on an early morning trek.
When you visit the St. Mary’s River you will feel transported to paradise. The area provides tremendous ecological value, from it’s aquatic life and wildlife to stands of eastern hemlocks and other late successional species. When on the river you hear no sounds but those of nature. When you look up into a clear night sky, you see more stars than anywhere else. When walking through hardwood forests or paddling the branches, you will catch glimpses of White Tail Deer, Black Bear, Bobcat, Grouse, Bald Eagle, Woodcock, Great Blue Heron, the Common Loon, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl and a multitude of other migratory birds. The list is endless as to who call the St. Mary’s River home.
Now, doesn’t our river, the historic St. Mary’s in Nova Scotia, sound like the perfect location for an open-pit gold mine? How reckless you may say. How utterly absurd. Unfortunately, this is a very real risk. An Australian company, St. Barbara, is proposing an open-pit gold mine bordering the St. Mary’s River. A mine that would be nothing more than a smash and grab operation with a 7-8 year life expectancy at most.
This month a press conference was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia by the Atlantic Salmon Federation, St. Mary’s River Association & Nova Scotia Salmon Association. Recently captured video footage was released of a pair of spawning Atlantic Salmon on the St. Mary’s River. This extremely rare documentation is irrefutable evidence of our river’s health and what is at risk.
The diverse species that call the St. Mary’s River home do not have a voice, but you do. Please visit www.asf.ca/silver to add your voice to the community of like-minded individuals rallying together to protect our Nova Scotia rivers.