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New Cape Breton Festival Celebrates Atlantic Salmon

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An aerial view of Cape Breton Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

An aerial view of Cape Breton Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia/Parks Canada, Adam Hill

A festival that celebrates the iconic Atlantic salmon debuts this weekend in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Fishtival runs Aug. 18 to 20 in the Nova Scotia park.

Parks Canada is dedicated to Atlantic salmon recovery for the betterment of the aquatic ecosystems and to give all Canadians, including future generations, the chance to discover the benefits and wonder of this iconic species. This project supports the federal agency’s commitments to protect Canada’s natural and cultural heritage by using the best scientific evidence and Indigenous knowledge to help conserve and restore species at risk.

As part of the restoration project, Parks Canada wants to showcase the Atlantic salmon and the work being done behind the scenes to ensure it survives and thrives in its natural habitat, which has been increasingly subject to the effects of climate change.

An opening ceremony for Fishtival is slated for 5 p.m. Friday at the Freshwater Lake Day-Use Area, followed by campfire stories at 7 p.m.

Saturday kicks off with a guided hike of the Clyburn Valley trail at 9 a.m. From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. there will be science activity booths and fish-friendly fishing at Freshwater Lake. At 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., there will be performances of Salar, a theatre production about the lifecycle of the Atlantic salmon, at North Bay Beach. The day ends with a screening of a film A New Beginning from Wapikoni at the Ingonish Visitor Centre at 9 p.m.

On Sunday, a fun run begins at 9 a.m. on the Clyburn Valley trail. Closing ceremonies are at 12:30 p.m. at North Bay Beach.

For years, the Atlantic salmon population in Clyburn Brook has faced adversity. Parks Canada has been on a mission to rescue them since 2019. Collaborating with Dalhousie University’s Aquatron Laboratory, Cape Breton Highlands has nurtured juvenile salmon, rearing them in captivity. On Oct.17, 2022, Parks Canada released almost 50 salmon back into Clyburn Brook’s waters.

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