Skip to main content

A large Atlantic salmon is shown in Nova Scotia's St. Mary's River in this undated handout photo. Salmon conservation groups say rare video that captures wild Atlantic salmon spawning in a Nova Scotia brook near a proposed gold mine site should help convince governments to reject the project.

Nick HawkinsTom Cheney/The Canadian Press

Rare “intimate” video that captures wild Atlantic salmon spawning in a Nova Scotia brook near a proposed gold mine should help persuade governments to reject the project, conservation groups said Wednesday.

The video shot last November was released in Halifax by the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, the St. Mary’s River Association and the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

It shows a pair of wild Atlantic salmon preparing to spawn in McKeen Brook, a tributary of the St. Mary’s River near the Cochrane Hill gold mine being proposed by Atlantic Gold, a subsidiary of Australian-owned St. Barbara.

Story continues below advertisement

“We hope these images, taken just a few hundred metres from a planned open pit gold mine, help people realize what’s at stake,” said Tom Cheney, who worked with photographer Nick Hawkins to make the video.

Salmon conservation groups say rare video that captures wild Atlantic salmon spawning in a brook near a proposed gold mine site in northeastern Nova Scotia should help convince governments to reject the project. The Canadian Press

Cheney said the video shows the “beautiful, secretive, intimate and ancient ritual” of a female salmon flipping onto her side and using her tail to strike the pebbly bottom to make a pit for her eggs.

Kris Hunter, the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s director of programs for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, said the images are relevant to the company’s application for environmental approvals.

He noted the Atlantic salmon has been recommended for listing as an endangered species.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act includes provisions calling for an assessment of whether a project affects fish, and the federal Fisheries Act prohibits adding substances to water that would degrade or alter it in a way that is “deleterious to fish or fish habitat.”

Hunter said the film clearly shows the species is at a crucial point of its life in the Guysborough County river.

“We know there’s stuff in that (gold mine) effluent and that it gets out into the environment,” he said. “They (the company) deem that as an acceptable risk … and we don’t.”

Story continues below advertisement

The company said in a statement that it appreciates the conservation efforts of the salmon federations and will review the information presented.

It notes the proposed mine will go before a federal-provincial environmental assessment process, and protection from any potential harm to salmon would have to be assured before the mine is approved.

The company says federal fisheries laws require that any water leaving the mine site would have to be “clean, strictly monitored, tested and regulated.”

It also says the company’s current mine in Moose River, N.S., has operated next to a lake and a wilderness area for more than two years and testing indicates that water and aquatic life haven’t been harmed.

However, the salmon protection groups are saying they’re unconvinced and argue the discovery of spawning grounds shows how crucial it is to avoid any form of contamination of the pristine waters in northeastern Nova Scotia.

“Over decades there has been an incredible amount of work put into the river,” said Scott Beaver, president of the St. Mary’s River Association.

Story continues below advertisement

“We have invested more than $1 million since 2014 to improve habitat for wildlife and recently received a $1.2-million federal grant to continue the work. This development could undermine everything we’ve done.”

St. Barbara also wants to develop the Beaver Dam mine, next to the nearby West River at Sheet Harbour, and conservation groups have been raising objections to that proposal.

A spokeswoman for the province’s Environment Department said in an e-mail that the Cochrane Hill mine site is currently undergoing a joint federal and provincial environmental assessment which started in November 2018.

“Information on potential impacts to all species, including Atlantic salmon, must be provided in the environmental assessment document,” the statement said.

The document is reviewed by federal and provincial experts, the public and Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.

Once the environmental assessment document is submitted, Nova Scotia Environment and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada will receive public comments and submissions.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies