Greenland 'devastating' Atlantic Salmon says conservation group

A recent meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) was unable to convince Greenland to restrict its harvest of wild Atlantic salmon.

Atlantic Salmon Federation says international organization failed to protect suffering stocks

The Atlantic Salmon Federation says one way to decrease the harvest by Greenland would be to negotiate a private agreement. (Courtesy Tom Moffatt/ASF)

A recent meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) was unable to convince Greenland to restrict its harvest of wild Atlantic salmon.

The Arctic country has declared its fishermen will take 45 tonnes of the fish that migrate there, despite the advice of scientists.

"A compromise would have been a subsistence fishery of no more than 20 tonnes, but more than twice this amount is unacceptable," said Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, an international conservation group.

Wild salmon leave rivers on the East Coast of North America and migrate to the rich waters of Greenland before returning to spawn.

Fishing in these ocean feeding grounds directly impact populations in rivers like the Restigouche and Miramichi. 

According to the Atlantic Salmon Federation, "the situation is dire throughout most of Eastern Canada."

River populations are gauged using conservation limits. That's the number of fish required for a population to be sustainable.

According to data published this year, rivers in Quebec met only 44 per cent of their of their conservation limit, while the Southwest Miramichi was at 69 per cent, and the Northwest Miramichi reached just 21 per cent.

Unanimous consent required

"Greenland's intent to harvest 45 tonnes each year from 2015 to 2017 will put our salmon at further risk," said Taylor. 

Although Greenland, represented by Denmark, was alone among the six countries that make up the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, the other countries were unable to force a reduction in that country's harvest.

That's because the convention requires unanimous consent from all parties. 

Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Norway, Russia and the United States are all part of the NASCO treaty.

According to the Atlantic Salmon Federation, one way to decrease the harvest by Greenland would be to negotiate a private agreement. There was one in place prior to 2011, before the expansion of a commercial fishing industry.

In the Faroe Islands, a similar agreement has been in place since 1992, effectively halting the wild salmon fishery there. 

Earlier this year, the Canadian government announced measures to ease local pressure on salmon populations, including the elimination of a retention fishery in New Brunswick, moving to catch and release only.

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