A Western researcher is receiving federal funding for reintroducing an extinct species back to Lake Ontario.

Western biology professor Bryan Neff received funding of approximately $600,000 to reintroduce Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario after being extinct from these waters for over 100 years due to overfishing and industrialization.

He received the funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Strategic Partnership Grants program. He is working with a team of around 40 other organizations, including the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Neff stresses the importance of reintroducing Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario.

These fish provide a significant economic benefit to the Ontario economy — recreational fishing in brings in $2 billion a year. Atlantic salmon is popular to fish recreationally, so its reintroduction could strengthen this market.

He says that his team “released about a million frys [baby salmon]… each year… but maybe a few hundred to a few thousand leave the streams and enter the lake and then only a handful, probably less than 10, return to any given river as an adult.”

This research is attempting to answer the question: what happens to the millions of frys being released? The research team realized that a few of the fish are returning as adults to the streams, but none are reproducing naturally.

Neff explains that the biggest problem is in-stream mortality of Atlantic salmon. The fish are living up to two years in-stream, but something is killing them. Thus, his research is mainly focused on the first two years of life of the Atlantic salmon and what can be done to enhance their survivorship in Lake Ontario.

“We have an obligation to try to preserve biodiversity on this planet … as a result of our activities we lost a species from this area,” Neff said.

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