06/12/2015 08:44 EDT | Updated 06/12/2016 05:59 EDT

Matapedia River salmon breeding ground damaged by CN, say conservationists

Anglers in the Gaspé region say CN Railway has caused irreversible damage to the local salmon population.

In April, the rail company dumped 6,000 tonnes of rocks on the side of its tracks to prevent erosion — and right into an important salmon breeding ground in the Matapedia River, according to Quebec's Atlantic Salmon Federation.

The mouth of the Matapedia River sits near the border between Quebec and New Brunswick, on the province's Gaspé peninsula.

Permit-issuing authority Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) said CN Railway didn't respect its maintenance work permit when it dumped the rocks into the river's Fosse du Cordonnier during an important time in the Atlantic salmon breeding cycle.

Jean-François Sylvestre, DFO's chief of conservation and protection in the region, said CN has been issued a warning for not respecting the conditions of its work permit.

"One part of the authorization asked them to have clean rocks so that there's no sediment that goes down the river, and that wasn't respected that good. There's another one with the circulation of the tractors or the machinery, that wasn't respected, too," Sylvestre said.

CN insists it did respect its permit.

Sylvestre said if additional work is done in the area, DFO will send conservation officers to monitor the job.