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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 services.


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 globe.


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

St. 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 in spending.These

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?


Dr. Gordon L. Silver as a child admiring a large St. Mary’s River salmon.

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Please stay on the line …


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