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Disappointing Salmon Returns in Quebec

Salmonids Sustainability +2 more

CANADA - It is now apparent to the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) that there has been a major decline in this years return of wild Atlantic salmon to Canadian rivers.

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"This is especially disappointing after the very good returns of 2010 and 2011, said Charles Cusson, ASFs Programme Director for Quebec. He continued While salmon can wait until the last possible moment before leaving the ocean and ascending their rivers to spawn, it is unlikely, at this late date, that there will be surges up any rivers.

Overall the larger salmon that return from the Greenland feeding grounds are down, but not extremely so. However, grilse (salmon that spend one winter at sea) have decreased in all regions. There are too many variables for scientists to determine why grilse numbers have declined so precipitously.

Variables could include temperature, poor food supply or some other set of unknown factors. This summers lack of rain and high temperatures exacerbated the situation. The salmon that did return were reluctant to enter the low, warm waters that were depleted of oxygen.

In Quebec:

  • Overall, returns were low this year, but not disastrously so.
  • While the returns were low compared to last year, many rivers met or were above the 2007 to 2011 five year average.
  • There are some prospects for an increased fall run in some rivers, and indeed recent reports indicate at least some truth to this.
  • The low flows and hot temperatures definitely impacted mid-summer runs.

This years low returns emphasise the importance of two conservation measures. Since 2002, ASF and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund of Iceland have had an agreement with Greenlands commercial salmon fishermen to suspend this fishery to allow more North American salmon that migrate to Greenland to feed to return to home rivers to spawn. Anglers who practice live release also play an important role by carefully releasing salmon and grilse to give them the opportunity to continue upstream to spawn.