Salmon Sampling in North West River
Posted 09 July 2015, 6:10 pm NDT
Judith collecting fish samples. (larger version)
Hi, I'm Riley Winters, the Wildlife Research Assistant for the Torngat Secretariat. On July 5th, I joined student Judith Savoie in North West River on her salmon testing study. Judith is doing a MSc in Environmental Studies at MUN and her project consists of 2 parts; determining important rivers for salmon population in Labrador and analyzing major ions and heavy metals in Labrador, all by testing Atlantic salmon that were caught by fishermen coming in on the dock at NWR.

One part of her study, she evaluates the feasibility of using the chemical fingerprint given by ratios of five different elements (Barium, Magnesium, Manganese, Strontium and Zinc) on the Calcium concentration of the river. This is registered in the otoliths (ear bones) of the fish that she is sampling by cutting the top of the fish's head, of both parr (young salmon) and adult salmon to infer the natal rivers of the Atlantic salmon from Lake Melville. This will give information about which rivers are the most important for the salmon population survival and to be protected in the future. Basically, the parr's otolith composition is related to the water chemistry of the river (the fingerprint of the river). In the adult's otolith, it is possible to find when the fish migrated to salt water with the ratio Srontium/Calcium which increase when it migrates in salt water. We assume that the composition of the otolith before the salmon migrates to salt water is the fingerprint of its natal river. Therefore, with statistical testing, we reassign the fish to the river with the same fingerprint.

The Labrador Institute recently acquired a Microwave Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometer (MP-AES) in purpose to realize metal analysis, such as major ions and heavy metals, in Labrador. Judith will evaluate the feasibility of using 'MP-AES' to detect and quantify essential (Barium, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Strontium and Zinc) and non-essential (Arsenic, Cadmium. Cobalt, Mercury, Nickel and Lead) elements contained in muscle tissue obtained from the Atlantic salmon Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fisheries in Lake Melville. The information obtained on essential and non-essential elements can give us information on the health of the fish. Also, the information obtained on the heavy metals by this project could be used in the future for environmental monitoring study as a baseline as it is done before the impoundment of the Muskrat Falls reservoir and by the healthcare authorities. Furthermore, having an analytical system allowing mercury analysis right here in Labrador would be a great help to monitor the mercury level in fish.

That morning alone, we took samples from 7 different Atlantic salmon. We collected things like fin clips, scales, otolith (ear bones), muscle, weight, length and also the location and date when the salmon were caught. I've learnt a lot from this experience and gained a good understanding about the importance of these studies and how it can help Labrador's ecosystem.
2015 Torngat Secretariat
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