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OPG renews partnership to help Bring Back the Salmon to Lake Ontario

OPG has committed once again to help restore a thriving population of Atlantic Salmon to Lake Ontario.

Classroom hatcheries, including those at OPG's Darlington and Pickering nuclear stations, help educate and restore Atlantic Salmon populations in Lake Ontario.
Classroom hatcheries, including those at OPG's Darlington and Pickering nuclear stations, help educate and restore Atlantic Salmon populations in Lake Ontario.

The company recently renewed a five-year partnership with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) for the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program, also known as Bring Back the Salmon.

Launched in 2006, the program seeks to restore a self-sustaining Atlantic Salmon population to Lake Ontario and its streams. As lead sponsor of the program since 2011, OPG has helped stock more than seven million Atlantic Salmon in four target tributaries of Lake Ontario – Credit River, Duffins Creek, Cobourg Creek, and Ganaraska River.

With the Darlington and Pickering Nuclear stations operating along the shores of Lake Ontario, OPG has been committed to supporting biodiversity and sustainability in this Great Lake. Biodiversity protection is also an element of OPG’s Climate Change Plan.

Through OPG’s support and the support of other program partners, Bring Back the Salmon has helped reverse the impact of human activities to give this native species a second chance.

The cold-water fish first settled in Lake Ontario about 12,000 years ago but was declared locally extinct in 1898 due to overfishing, pollution from mills and tanneries, and the building of dams in the 1800s.

Employee with Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters holds up bag with juvenile Atlantic Salmon.
Since 2006, the Bring Back the Salmon program has stocked more than seven million Atlantic Salmon in four target tributaries of Lake Ontario.

The new five-year pact will help support important program pillars, which include raising Atlantic Salmon and stocking key streams, improving fish habitat, running classroom hatcheries, including those at OPG’s Pickering and Darlington plants, educating anglers and students on this restoration story, and conducting research on fish populations.

“The OPG funding sets the table for everything that happens in the program. It’s doable because we have this core funding from OPG,” said Chris Robinson, Conservation Programs Manager at OFAH.

A highlight of the previous five-year term was the installation of fish cameras along the Ganaraska and Credit rivers. The high-tech cameras allowed for the counting of migratory salmonids in each river and proved to be a great public engagement tool, as anybody can watch the videos.

A student assists with the release of Atlantic Salmon fry.
A student assists with the release of Atlantic Salmon fry.

“There were some odd and interesting highlights for sure,” said Robinson. “We’ve had a beaver go through it and had about eight fish on camera at once, which was the record.”

Over the next five years, the program will look to use environmental DNA to help detect the presence of young juvenile salmon in streams the program doesn’t stock. This could show evidence of natural reproduction by salmon travelling upstream from Lake Ontario.

“All living things are shedding materials in the environment. If you sample the water, there’s a probability you can pick up the DNA,” explained program coordinator, Kathryn Peiman. “You can amplify that and detect the presence of Atlantic Salmon in the water.”