The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to suspend all retention salmon fishing in the province.

They say the wild salmon stocks in the province's rivers have been plummeting and that they need time to recover.

"We're in a very desperate situation right now," Don Ivany, director of Newfoundland and Labrador programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, told CBC's The Broadcast.


Don Ivany is the director of Newfoundland and Labrador programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation. (CBC )

Ivany says that last year, 11 of the 15 counting facilities monitored by DFO did not see the required number of salmon returning to spawn.

"This year, returns are down substantially from last year," he said. "In fact, by about 50 per cent more."

"That would mean there is not a river in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador this year that is likely going to meet their minimum spawning requirement."

No surprise

According to a press release issued by the Atlantic Salmon federation on Aug. 1, the declining salmon numbers had been on DFO's radar.

The release said DFO put a call out to the Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Salmon Advisory Committee for recommendations on whether or not to close Newfoundland rivers to retention angling — the kind of fishing where anglers keep what they catch.

The Exploits River

The ASF says in the Exploits River, the largest river in insular Newfoundland, salmon stocks are down 10,000 fish compared to last year. (Leigh Anne Power/CBC)

The ASF submitted its recommendation to suspend retention salmon fishing and then waited for DFO's decision.

So far, no decision has been made.

Ivany says time is critical right now: as of Aug. 1, anglers are allowed to take two more fish from the province's three larger rivers: the Exploits, the Humber and the Gander rivers.

"I've been monitoring Facebook sites and already we're seeing pictures of fish people are harvesting as of [August 1]," he said, adding that numbers in the Exploits are particularly concerning.

"If you look at the Exploits river, they're down 10,000 fish from last year," he said. "And the Exploits river only 5 or 6 years ago had 45,000 fish coming back. This year they have 13,500 to date."

Risk of poaching

The ASF is also asking DFO to extend its salmon monitoring and step up the enforcement of any suspension retention salmon fishing.

"If you close the rivers to retention it means there will be less people fishing, and that makes rivers more vulnerable to poaching," Ivany said.

He's hoping to get an answer from DFO as soon as possible.

"Every day DFO waits, more fish are going to be killed," he said.

With files from The Broadcast