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Salmon Returns Dangerously Low

CANADA & GREENLAND - At an international treaty conference in Ilulissat, Greenland from 4-6 June 2011, the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) will fight to save thousands of large Atlantic salmon from being killed in Greenland and Canadian fisheries.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has announced that there should be no harvest of Atlantic salmon (mostly large egg-bearing females that are of importance to the seeding of rivers) in the ocean at Greenland or in the Labrador Sea.

The scientific advice was voiced to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) following evidence of species decline caused by constant harvesting of the salmon along its migratory route.

Bill Taylor, President of ASF, said: "Despite advice provided by ICES every year for the past ten, that the total number of two-sea-winter salmon (2SW) in the ocean is well below the number required to meet minimum North American conservation requirements, they continue to be killed in gill net fisheries in Greenland, Canada, and St. Pierre and Miquelon."

NASCO has been successful since 2003 in reaching agreement with Greenland to limit its salmon fishery to internal consumption only, but the number of salmon this fishery killed grew from 12 tonnes in 2003 to 43 tonnes in 2010. ICES states that 80 per cent or 10,000 of the large salmon killed at Greenland in 2010 were of North American origin.

In addition, ICES estimates an unreported harvest at Greenland of 10tonnes (another 2,500 salmon). Some of these salmon are from endangered populations, protected under national legislation in the US and populations that have been recently designated as endangered, threatened or of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

Canada continues to allow the kill of large salmon in recreational fisheries in Quebec and First Nations fisheries in all provinces and a resident food fishery in Labrador.

"Measures taken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to stop the retention of large salmon in the recreational fishery in Labrador and allow one less tag for salmon caught as by-catch in the resident food net fishery in Labrador are welcome, but do not go far enough," said Mr Taylor.

DFO reported a kill of 7,800 large salmon in Aboriginal and 3,200 in recreational fisheries in 2010.

"This significant harvest weakens Canada’s negotiations at NASCO to reduce the Greenland harvest," continued Mr Taylor.

In addition, significant numbers of Atlantic salmon are taken illegally in Canada, and this unreported catch has been estimated by Canada to be at least 18.4 tonnes and would include many large salmon.

Returns of 2SW salmon in 2010 decreased from 2009 by 65 per cent in Labrador, 51 per cent in Newfoundland, and 14 per cent in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Decreases in populations in Canada that are designated as endangered amounted to 11 per cent along the coast of Nova Scotia and in the Bay of Fundy and two per cent in the US, where all remaining wild Atlantic salmon are listed as endangered.

There was an increase of large salmon in Quebec of seven per cent. The estimated abundance of 2SW salmon in North American rivers was 12 per cent lower than the estimated average abundance of the previous ten years, and was the second lowest of the last 40 years.

Mr Taylor concluded: "In view of these sobering numbers, it is astonishing that Canada still allows the kill of large Atlantic salmon. It is of paramount importance for international negotiations that Greenlanders see that Canada is doing its utmost to conserve its salmon in home waters."

ASF urges Canada to comply with the NASCO-agreed precautionary approach in fisheries management, and to implement management plans for all salmon fisheries that end the killing of large spawners, especially in rivers that are not even meeting minimum conservation targets.

ICES estimates that, last year, only 62,470 2SW salmon returned to North American rivers, and this was before further harvests took place by in-river fisheries. Canada’s leadership is required at NASCO to strengthen negotiations with Greenland towards maintaining a zero commercial quota and reducing Greenland’s internal consumption harvest of wild Atlantic salmon.

the Fish Site Editor

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