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Smolt Tracking

The Tracking Technology - Pioneering Work

 SPECIAL ALERT: Follow the track of the Wave Glider that began its journey June 19, partly to detect smolt tagged with ASF's sonic transmitters. It utilizes the waves for propulsion. Click here


ASF has almost two decades of experience in tracking wild Atlantic salmon; first in rivers, then out along their migration routes to and from distant feeding grounds.

The technology for this tracking depends on small sonic transmitters that are surgically implanted in Atlantic salmon. At intervals, normally set to 30 sec. before the smolt is released, the transmitter gives a coded signal specific to that particular fish.

Receivers are anchored to the seafloor .5km apart, and pick up the signal, recording it to memory. Later, either through a signal to the surface or by being connected at the surface directly with a computer, the signal data is transferred to a computer for analysis.

The technology has been developed by ASF in partnership with VEMCO of Halifax, and DFO.


ASF's Smolt Tracking Program vr2

ASF’s smolt tracking work has expanded from following smolts down rivers into a program examining their entire migration route and seeking answers to the mystery of increased marine mortality that has occurred in the past two decades.

In 2012, ASF's latest tracking season began with field staff inserting transmitters into both smolts and kelts from the watersheds of the Miramichi, Restigouche and Cascapedia rivers.

For an overview of some of the field work to follow smolts in 2012, click here. This is a May entry in ASF's Rivernotes blog.


SUMMARY for 2012

This year's tagging program includes the following number of tagged smolts:

80 Miramichi
105 Restigouche
65 Cascapedia

Besides these smolts, there were also 35 kelts with sonic transmitters implanted.
Ten of these kelts also had satellite tags, that will pop off and transmit from these migrating kelts after five months at sea.

Going the Distance

ASF has now tracked Atlantic salmon more than half the distance between NB and QC rivers and Greenland feeding grounds.

Equally important, there is data over multiple years, allowing for a better understanding of the numbers of smolt that survive through each stage of their migration

The research has shown that some smolt moved at up to 25km per day from home rivers including the Restigouche and Grand Cascapedia, to be passing through the Strait of Belle Isle in early July.

2012 - A special year

In addition to ASF's programs, the Ocean Tracking Network, headquartered at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS, has completed the Cabot Strait line of receivers, as well as a continental shelf line of receivers from near Halifax to the edge of the continental shelf.

As well, a "wave glider" detection system has been launched off the western coast of Newfoundland, and has on board a modified receiver that may pick up smolts travelling along the Newfoundland coast towards the Strait of Belle Isle.

Smolt travel Map 

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