Striped bass are native to North America, typically not as far north as Labrador. Thanks for reporting.
Striped bass that are turning up in Labrador have locals and researchers perplexed, but a biologist says it's too early to start calling them an invasive species.
'We don't want to overreact here.'- Trish Nash
People have been posting on social media, as well as contacting the NunatuKavut natural resources office in recent weeks with reports of having caught striped bass — a species not usually found north of the lower St. Lawrence River.
Not a few isolated fish
The bass have been found in rivers and ponds in Forteau, L'Anse au Clair and L'Anse au Loup, which has raised some concern that the fish could have a negative impact on the area's cherished salmon populations.
"We don't want to overreact here, but we definitely haven't had striped bass in our ecosystem," said Trish Nash, a biologist with NunatuKavut.
"It's really perplexing. Why are they here? Whether they're chasing food, we really don't know."
Nash said the reports are not isolated incidents, with thousands of bass being observed moving northward through southern Labrador.
She said researchers have taken tissue and digestive samples from some of the fish to try and determine where they came from and what the fish are eating. That data should be available in the coming weeks.
She said based on previous research done by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, she doesn't think the bass pose an immediate risk to salmon.
"There was a study done in DFO over three years and less than two per cent of the striped bass diet was salmon," Nash said. "So I don't think we really want to get overly concerned this time."
Officials at the NanatuKavut office are not calling the bass an invasive species yet, as this summer could be an anomaly and it's not a species that has thrived in other parts of Canada where salmon also exist.
In the meantime, Nash said she and others are asking anglers not to eat any striped bass they catch, and to notify the natural resources office so they can keep track of them.
"If you catch one, you need to release it," she said. "But we want to know if you're catching them."