Anqotum Resource Management has been involved in striped bass research since 2008 when we assisted DFO in a study that was looking at the number of tagged striped bass returning to the Miramichi River to overwinter. Following this study, we helped utilize the Gasperau fisherman of Eel Ground First Nation to monitor the population of striped bass through out their recovery period. This was done by recording the number of individuals that were caught in the trap nets during the Gasperau season. During the life of this project, we observed a sharp increase in the number of spawning individuals, which met and exceeded the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recovery target for spawning bass in the Miramichi.
Once the monitoring project had ended we were left with a lingering question from our communities. What effect does this extremely large striped bass population have on our dwindling Atlantic salmon population, particularly the out-migrating smolts? This was particularly interesting because the bass start to spawn in the rivers around the same time that the smolt migrate out to sea, so there is a potential for overlap of these two species. It was also concerning because at the time, the spawning population of striped bass had reached 300,000 individuals (DFO’s recovery target was 36,000 spawning bass for 5 consecutive years), and the out-migrating smolt population was estimated to be at ~400,000 fish. The concern here was that it wouldn’t take much for that amount of striped bass to make a significant impact on the smolt population even if they were not targeted as a main food source.
Starting in 2012, NSMDC-AAROM began to investigate this potential overlap of the two species. We chose to utilize a scientific approach to conducting a diet study, which had been rising in popularity. This technique is known as Stable Isotope analysis. This is where tissues in the species in question are tested for stable Carbon (13C) and stable Nitrogen (15N). The reason we tested for these stable isotopes is because the fish only gains these stable isotopes from the species they eat. Knowing this we can discern if the food source is from a marine environment (the ocean) or if it originated in a fresh water environment (in the head waters, above the head of tide). As this research continues to be developed, we hope to uncover the mysteries that surround the behavior of these two species and how they interact when in our river. In 2015, Anqotum Resource Management maintains these studies.