Media Room

CRI’s Dr. Tommi Linnansaari becomes the UNB CAST Atlantic Salmon Research Chair

October 6, 2017

The University of New Brunswick is establishing a research chair focused on Atlantic salmon as part of $1.3 million in funding from the Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow (CAST) to conduct innovative research projects aimed at curbing the alarming decline of salmon stocks.

The investment by CAST – a partnership of scientists, environmental groups and industry participants focused on saving wild Atlantic salmon – earmarks $500,000 for the creation of the research chair while the remainder is focused on four research projects.

“This is a tremendous day for those of us who care about the plight of wild Atlantic salmon,” said Dr. David MaGee, acting vice-president of research at the University of New Brunswick. “We are grateful to our dedicated partners in CAST for their vision and commitment, and proud of the talented scientists at the Canadian Rivers Institute at UNB, whose reputation for world-class research was instrumental in making today’s announcement a reality.”

The research projects, undertaken by scientists at UNB and the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI), will allow for a greater understanding of how Atlantic salmon behave, what is threatening the stocks and what might be done to revive them. The work will focus on one of the great Atlantic salmon rivers of the world, New Brunswick’s Miramichi River, though the techniques developed and knowledge generated will be applicable across the species’ range.

“We are proud to have world-class scientists at the University of New Brunswick and the Canadian Rivers Institute with us on this mission to save wild Atlantic salmon,” said Brian Moore, president of CAST. “We have brought together partners from industry, academia, conservation groups, rights holders and governments – all determined to restore populations of Atlantic salmon to our rivers.”

At a news conference today at the university’s Fredericton campus, Canadian Rivers Institute Research Associate Tommi Linnansaari was introduced as the holder of the UNB CAST Atlantic Salmon Research Chair.

“I’m honoured to be chosen for the UNB CAST Atlantic Salmon Research Chair, and thankful to CAST,” said Dr. Linnansaari, a fish ecologist with almost 20 years of experience in Atlantic salmon research across four countries. “We, and our partners, have important work to do in the years ahead.”

Dr. Linnansaari, who in addition to his work with CRI has held various research positions at UNB since 2009, also becomes an associate professor of biology and forestry & environmental management at UNB with today’s appointment.

Wild Atlantic salmon populations have experienced a precipitous decline since the 1980s in North America, with populations in some rivers now facing extinction. Immediate action is needed to generate the knowledge and tools that will help populations to recover and sustain themselves. The researchers of CAST will have an important role to play in this.

“Today’s announcement is another positive step towards preserving and growing wild Atlantic salmon populations for generations to come,” said Hon. Bill Fraser, minister of transportation and infrastructure and minister responsible for the Regional Development Corporation.

Dr. Frederick Whoriskey, chair of the Canadian Rivers Institute management board, said the announcement builds on the dedicated work of Canadian Rivers Institute researchers at UNB.

“For more than 16 years, scientists at CRI have conducted ground-breaking international research into wild Atlantic salmon, and have mentored a generation of new aquatic scientists eager to make every river a healthy river,” said Dr. Whoriskey. “The addition of Dr. Linnansaari to the faculty at UNB will ensure that the university and the Canadian Rivers Institute remain on the front lines in tackling the pressing challenges faced by the iconic Atlantic salmon.”

As part of his role as research chair, Dr. Linnansaari will co-ordinate the four research projects being funded by CAST:

The Thermal Imaging project will develop methods to understand how high water temperatures are affecting Atlantic salmon production and how to respond to these stressors. Thermal infrared imagery will be collected from 600 kilometres of the Miramichi River, then complemented with existing data at UNB to create highly detailed habitat maps to identify cold water refuge areas for salmon.

The Smolt to Adult Supplementation initiative is a conservation method where wild smolt, on their way to sea, are collected and grown to adults at the Miramichi Salmon Association’s South Esk hatchery with the intention that the mature fish are then released to their natal river to spawn.

Population modelling and a common home for all salmon data: Existing historic information on Atlantic salmon is not readily available to fishery scientists, managers or the public. To better support the research and work being done to protect Atlantic salmon, a data management system will be developed for all existing and future Atlantic salmon data in support of developing a comprehensive salmon management plan.

The Adaptive Resolution Imaging Sonar (ARIS) project is developing an automated method for estimating the returning run of Atlantic salmon in certain sections of the Miramichi River. The method will provide an accurate and near real-time count of Atlantic salmon, as well as other large fish, even at night and in murky water conditions. The objective is to enhance assessments of salmon populations for fisheries managers. Fish counts collected through the project are available at CastSalmon.com.

About CAST
CAST (Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow) is a partnership of scientists, environmental groups, industry and government. The focus is on saving Atlantic salmon before it is too late. It is hoped that CAST will serve as a positive partnership model for Eastern Canada’s wild Atlantic salmon rivers. CAST partners include the Government of Canada, the Province of New Brunswick, the University of New Brunswick, the Canadian Rivers Institute, the Miramichi Salmon Association, Cooke Aquaculture and J.D. Irving, Limited. For more information about CAST research and partners: CastForSalmon.com.

About the Canadian Rivers Institute
The Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) was founded in 2001 as a collaboration of researchers at the University of New Brunswick at both the Fredericton and Saint John campuses to develop the aquatic science needed to understand, protect, and sustain water resources for the region, nation, and the planet. Today, CRI has grown into a collaborative of hundreds of research associates, graduate students, and staff based at institutions across Canada and internationally, working towards the vision of “making every river a healthy river.”

About the University of New Brunswick
The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada’s oldest English-language university. Founded in 1785, the multi-campus institution has a rich history and a dynamic focus on innovation, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. UNB has nearly 10,500 students from nearly 100 countries while several thousand more take UNB courses online and at partner institutions around the world. UNB contributes significantly to the province with an annual economic impact of $1.2 billion on the provincial economy – equivalent to 4.5 per cent of the gross domestic product of New Brunswick.

Media contacts

  • David Stonehouse: Senior Manager, Media Relations, University of New Brunswick, (506) 458-7925, david.stonehouse@unb.ca
  • Allen Curry: Science Director, Canadian Rivers Institute, (506) 452-6208, racurry@unb.ca
  • Andrew Willett: Executive Director, Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow (CAST), (506) 654-7758, willett.andrew@castforsalmon.com

Photo: Tommi Linnansaari, a research associate with the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick and the new UNB CAST Atlantic Salmon Research Chair, poses by the Saint John River in Fredericton. He will be coordinating new, innovative research projects aimed at reviving wild Atlantic salmon. (Photo credit: Rob Blanchard / Photo UNB)