Trout, genetic diversity and a world-class ecosystem

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A friend in Ireland recently sent me an article published in The Irish Times, describing “The trout study that could transform conservation.” Martin O’Grady, a senior research officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland, claims that, “a series of genetic studies on Irish trout (these are brown trout) populations has revealed a heretofore unknown complexity to the fish and its spawning rituals, which is set to transform conservation for decades to come” and “there is more genetic variation in Ireland’s brown trout population than there is between populations in the human race.”

Further, “O’Grady and his team have already identified 13 different varieties of brown trout in Lough Corrib, each with its own discrete genetic makeup and spawning ritual.”

They claim that “If the world were mapped according to premier brown trout fisheries, Ireland would rank as the pre-eminent super power.”

They explain all this is because of Ireland’s isolation since the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago and few other indigenous fish species being present.

It struck me that here in insular Newfoundland we have the same situation.

The island is about a third larger than Ireland, probably with as much diversity of freshwater habitats and few competing and predatory species of fish, so that brook trout and ouananiche are pretty well everywhere, but not just all the same.

The little work that has been done at Memorial University has shown discrete genetic diversity in trout stocks (e.g Indian Bay).

There is no doubt that in isolated systems over the island, and in Labrador, we have unique races of trout and ouananiche.

If the research were done, it is possible that we could claim that in Newfoundland we have unique races, in shapes, sizes, growth rates, migratory strategies, etc., and the best brook trout and ouananiche fishing in the world.

Also more respect would be given to conserving unique races. For example, Sandy Pond, an isolated post-glacial lake, has probably the largest brook trout on the island. They are a different shape, and are likely a unique sub-species.

Yet this lake is scheduled as a toxic waste dump by Vale, with “compensation” by improving access to a partial barrier on the outlet of Forest Pond, Salmon Cove River, with no regard to loss of a priceless unique ecosystem.

We have a precious resource which is not fully appreciated, and therefore being degraded in a false premise of progress.

John Gibson  

St. John’s

Organizations: Inland Fisheries Ireland

Geographic location: Ireland, Newfoundland, Indian Bay Sandy Pond Salmon Cove River

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Recent comments

  • Frank
    March 07, 2013 - 07:49

    I wrote a response to this earlier the week but it didn't get printed. Why?? I guess censorship is not only alive on the Vocm website!

  • Frank
    March 05, 2013 - 08:37

    To David: Obviously you haven't engaged in much trouting on the island as anyone who has can attest that the trouting has never been better. I routinely catch brook trout of 2 lbs and higher all over the Salmonier Line and they seem to be more plentiful all the time. As an active trouter for 40 years nature seems to have won out over the poaching efforts of Newfoundlanders. I do agree with you that a lot of Newfoundlanders have little respect for nature and will overfish and pollute our great outdoors and try to destroy species, as witnessed by Eugene Nippards effort to slaughter all the moose. But thankfully these people are few and far between. In the meantime I will hopefully enjoy the trouting for years to come.

    • david
      March 09, 2013 - 14:51

      Correction....I "engaged" in a lot of trouting, until it soon became abundantly clear that it was a complete, incredible and worsening disappointment. So you enjoy your "fish stories"....but don't ever fish anywhere else, because it could very likely ruin the pleasure of your local hobby.

  • david
    March 03, 2013 - 20:58

    Newfoundland's wildlife situation is completely exaggerated, and nothing short of an embarrassment. People come here expecting great fishing, and the truth is there is nothing but a few pitifully small trout anywhere but the most remote parts of Labrador. Any accesssible productive stream in Newfoundland was overfished, then poached, and destroyed long ago. It's who we are. There is much better trout fishing in the center of Calgary...and that is a fact. For someone to spend their good money and time to come anywhere on the island to trout fish makes me feel bad for them.

  • W Bagg
    March 02, 2013 - 16:11

    Progress? Pollute, Pillage, and Burn. Water (drinkable) being one of the necessities of life, and here we are polluting it when we have other options that would prevent the destruction of this lake. Leave nothing for future generations. Vale will be long gone from Long Harbour when the issues with the tailings pond come to haunt us. Nothing lasts forever and the tailings pnd will require maintenance as some point.................who'll own it then. The people of NL & Lab.................just like The mill in GFW.