Opportunities – the St. Mary’s River
Last week we saw that the
very existence of our community depends upon our
ability to halt outward migration and retain essential
Some of those leaving are folks that moved here for the Atlantic salmon
fishing and culture on the St. Mary’s River, now closed to all salmon fishing. Many seasonal residents owned camps on
the river that now sit little used. At present the closed
resource cannot attract new residents to our community,
such as another family physician that we are hoping for.
Over the years I’ve met several medical doctors on the river. Fishing seems to be a great way to unwind
for anyone with a stressful career, and the St. Mary’s attracted folks from all walks of life and from all over the
Dr. Gordon M. Silver’s family, who built the fishing camp at
Silver’s Pool, were avid salmon anglers. Dr. Silver served our community as family physician for many years. A son,
Dr. Gordon L. Silver, took over his father’s fishing hobby and medical duties while raising a new generation of salmon
anglers. I used to wonder whether his relaxed nature as due to his daily fishing habit. Likely many of you reading this were
delivered by Dr. Silver, fondly known as Doc Silver on the river.
Salmon fishing, especially on a beautiful river like the St. Mary’s, has the potential to restore our
community’s population, services and culture. But first we must restore the
Mary’s River’s Atlantic salmon fishery to the world-class sport it was as recently as the 1980s.
For inspiration and guidance we can examine a shining success story
right within our Province where a major river system, the Margaree, by the 1970s almost decimated of
salmon, has been successfully repopulated, attracting fly fishermen from afar and revitalizing local communities in
Inverness County. We can duplicate this success by restocking and maintaining salmon populations in the St. Mary’s River.
The St. Mary’s River is the heart of our community and with the
decline of salmon fishing on the river came the loss of community members, employment, and visitors to the area. With a fishing
recovery plan, it is believed that the river can again be the
economic generator that
it once was.
To achieve this, we’ll need a new salmon hatchery. The hatchery
is needed to increase the population of St. Mary’s strain salmon to the river’s capacity and to maintain
the salmon population at optimum size in future.
Along with stocking, a habitat improvement program is required to maximize the river’s capacity for
salmon. As with stocking, annual habitat maintenance is needed to deal with problems that develop in future. Nova Scotia’s
excellent NSLC Adopt-a-Stream program is a funding source for habitat renewal.
Approximate hatchery costs, based on the Margaree River model, suggest capital costs to complete the hatchery
building, fixtures and equipment would be $2.5 million. Annual operating costs are estimated to be $225,000.
Economic benefits are projected to be very substantial. In 2011, Gardner
Pinfold prepared a report for the Atlantic Salmon Federation called Economic Value of Wild Atlantic Salmon. “Economic
benefits of angler spending on the Margaree in 2005 alone are $2.5 million in Gross Domestic Product, 70 jobs and $2.1 million
numbers are projected to be larger in subsequent years.”
The St. Mary’s is one of Nova Scotia’s largest river systems,
draining parts of five counties. It has runs of Atlantic salmon from May until October, a major attraction
for the region’s dwindling tourism industry from spring until late fall.
The fishery can benefit not only the economy, but it also provides substantial
health, environmental, social and cultural benefits, keeping the way of life we know and love alive and well.
Some government spending and five years of intensive stocking and habitat
improvement can make this happen. By spending a little we’ll gain a lot.
I’d like to see our politicians step up to the plate on this. Why not suggest
it to candidates in the upcoming provincial election campaign?