Scott Beaver, president of the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA) is galvanized in his determination to protect the St. Mary’s River, after federal funding was announced that will directly help the SMRA protect and restore the ecosystem and wildlife in the Eastern Shore waterway.
Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced that the SMRA and the Nova Scotia Salmon Association will receive up to $1.8 million over three years.
This money, to be used to restore watersheds and coastal habitats in Eastern Nova Scotia, will be of great value, Beaver explained to guests at the St. Mary’s River Interpretive Centre on May 8.
What the funding and federal recognition of the importance of the St. Mary’s river and other Nova Scotian waterways and their ecosystems also served as for Beaver, is a reason to continue his and the SMRA’s objections to Atlantic Gold Corporation’s plans for a mine at Cochrane Hill.
Beaver said the funding the SMRA will be receiving only strengthens his stance against a potential mine in the area.
“I would hope that the decision makers on the gold mine issue see that this funding brings light to the issue, and that a gold mine simply doesn’t fit on the St. Mary’s River.” Beaver said.
The SMRA is central in the organized opposition the gold mine at Cochrane Hill and and has organized No Open Pit Excavation (NOPE), a campaign against Atlantic Gold's plans to open a mine in St. Mary's.
“We all depend on healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems that contribute to marine biodiversity and aquatic life support is the foundation for commercial, recreational and Indigenous fisheries,” Wilkinson said.
“Economic process and environmental sustainability must be seen through the same lens. Decades from now, our children and grandchildren should inherit healthy, productive prosperous aquatic ecosystems.”
The funding for the SMRA is intended to address acidification in key streams with salmon and expand upon habitat restoration of the West Branch area of the river, improving habitat for Atlantic salmon, brook trout and American eel that rely on both freshwater and coastal habitats throughout their life cycles.
Beaver expressed enthusiasm about what the funding means for the SMRA, noting it’s double the funding it was able to accrue in the past five years.
“The work we are going to be able to will be phenomenal. I’m so excited, I can’t get the smile off my face.”
Beaver noted the funding will allow the SMR to increase the amount of habitat-related and chemistry work it does, and that the end result of that work “is going to just be fantastic.”
West River and Sheet Harbour
The Nova Scotia Salmon Association will also benefit from federal funding. Wilkinson said the federal government will invest $660,000 over the next three years to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association to address acidification and supplement coastal river recovery in Nova Scotia.
Specifically, the money will be put toward water quality improvement and habitat restoration in the West River, Sheet Harbour and its estuary.
Rob Rutherford, coordinator of field programs for the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, said the funding will be critical to expanding upon what the association has already been doing.
“The funding is going to allow us to move into the estuary and look, at what the effects are, and where they are on the salmon and sea trout, which we’ve never had the funding to do before,” Rutherford said.
Wilkinson said a number of species will benefit from the work the funding will aid. These include the Atlantic salmon, brook trout, American eel, alewife and blueback herring.
It being the International Year of the Salmon, Wilkinson stressed the importance of “enhancing focus on actions to rebuild wild salmon stocks…to ensure salmon will recover and thrive on our coast for future generations.”
The funding is part of the federal government’s $1.5 million Oceans Protection Plan, an initiative protecting Canadian coasts and waterways.