The number of salmon licences sold in New Brunswick is down by half this year after a federally imposed one-year moratorium on keeping any salmon caught in Maritime rivers.

Figures from the Department of Natural Resources show about 8,000 salmon licences have been sold so far this year. That's about half the number of licences sold last year.

With the number of Atlantic salmon returning to Maritime rivers dropping sharply in recent years, conservation groups supported an order for only a catch-and-release fishery for salmon this year.

But with anglers apparently turning away from purchasing licences, the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation is calling on anglers to buy a licence and go salmon fishing.

"We're a little concerned about people not fishing," said federation president Charlie LeBlanc. "And all those people who don't fish may not want to be part of the solution when it comes to conservation.

"Those people who fish a lot take ownership of the river and seem to want to protect it."

LeBlanc says decades of decreasing bag limits have pushed many salmon anglers to hang up their rods.

"Everywhere we go we hear that."

LeBlanc agrees catch-and-release fishing is needed on some waters, but he says any future decisions on catch and release should be made on a river-by-river basis.