Researchers in New Brunswick are hoping for continued success in a program designed to increase the numbers of an endangered species of salmon.

On Thursday, members of the Fundy Salmon Recovery project released a record 800 inner Bay of Fundy wild Atlantic salmon into the rivers of the Fundy National Park. By the end of the fall, the organization will release 1,000 fish into the wild.

Through the recovery project, the fish are raised at an outdoor salmon farm where, once adults, they are transported via helicopter to different areas of the Fundy rivers and released.

The hope is the salmon will return to where they were dropped off during mating season and help stabilize the population.

“This river has wild Atlantic salmon spawning in it in large numbers -- historic numbers, really,” Corey Clarke, an ecologist with Fundy National Park, told CTV Atlantic on Thursday. “That is providing the ecosystem a level of productivity which it hasn't seen in decades.”

In the past, salmon recovery efforts involved indoor fish facilities, but researchers recently discovered the salmon had a much higher success rate if they were raised in the wild, so the program shifted to have outdoor protected fish farms.

The project also found more success when they switched from releasing juvenile salmon to adult ones. Of the 800 salmon released into the wild last year, the university noted 16 returned and another 8 might have escaped detection.

“That might not sound like a large number, but 16 fish would total more than multiple years put together on most Inner Bay of Fundy rivers,” Clarke said.

Once the endangered wild Atlantic salmon are in the river, it's up to the University of New Brunswick and Fundy Salmon Recovery to track their movements from there.

“We have a sonar camera that runs 24 hours a day, so even in the dark of night we can detect fish moving by it,” said Kurt Samways, a research associate with the University of New Brunswick. “Every fish we've released has a small tag in it, and so when it passes by one of our antennas we can pick it up and know if it's moving upstream or downstream.”

The Inner Bay of Fundy wild Atlantic salmon is genetically distinct from other salmon. They can be recognized through their pointed head, well-developed teeth and silvery sides.

The species of salmon were added to the endangered species list 15 years ago. In the 1980s, there were roughly 40,000 Inner Bay of Fundy wild Atlantic salmon in the wild and as of 2008, just 200 remained.

Despite the encouraging signs, young Atlantic salmon have a less than one per cent survival rate when leaving the Bay, though the cause of the high mortality rate is unknown.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke