New Brunswick

Greenland Atlantic salmon catch numbers come in well above new quota

In January, the Atlantic Salmon Federation was celebrating when Greenland's catch numbers came in under quota at 18 tonnes. Now, due to late reporting and miscounts, that number has more than doubled to more than 40 tonnes.

Catch figures adjusted from initial 18 tonnes to a final tally of more than 40 tonnes

The initial catch figure of 18 tonnes ballooned to more than 40 tonnes due to late reporting and miscalculations. (Submitted/Atlantic Salmon Federation)

Just a few months ago, members of the Atlantic Salmon Federation were celebrating.

Initial figures from Greenland showed the salmon catch clocked in under 18 tonnes, two fewer than the limit agreed to under a deal between the federation and the Association of Fishers and Hunters in Greenland and North Atlantic Salmon Fund in Iceland.

However, that celebration has fizzled. Federation spokesman Neville Crabbe says the final figures have more than doubled to over 40 tonnes of fish. 

Crabbe said the federation received a letter from the government of Greenland explaining the sizeable discrepancy occurred because of problems with reporting from communities, as well as miscalculations made on the government's part.

"Fishermen who had filled out paper reports of their catch and left them at municipal offices up and down the west coast of Greenland, those reports weren't submitted in a timely manner to the government's licensing authority," he said.

The deal reached between the federation and fishers' association in Greenland sets out a 20-tonne subsistence quota, much less than the 45 tonnes that communities on the country's west coast have historically brought in.

It also banned commercial fishing in the area by providing fishing communities with financial compensation equivalent to the market price of the 25 tonnes of salmon they can no longer catch.

Just a few months back, the Atlantic Salmon Federation was celebrating the latest catch numbers from Greenland. Thanks to a new agreement with fishermen there, the numbers were the lowest since 2005. Turns out, those numbers have since been adjusted and have more than doubled, says spokesperson Neville Crabbe. 7:32

The federation is working to learn more about how the drastic shift in numbers happened and plans to make sure it doesn't happen again, Crabbe said.

"I think it speaks to the difficulty of enforcing fisheries agreements everywhere."

He said the challenges of the agreement with Greenland include trying to work across time zones, languages and cultures.

Still, Crabbe said Greenland's government deserves credit for the work it has done already to protect salmon populations in the Atlantic.

An agreement between the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Association of Fishers and Hunters in Greenland limits the annual catch to a 20-tonne subsistence quota. (CBC)

They have enacted important regulatory measures that now require for the first time that all fishermen be licensed and that all fishermen report their salmon catch, he said.

"Unfortunately that reported figure is higher than we initially believed it to be."

Crabbe said the unreported catch has always been significant in Greenland. He cited figures from 2014, when the reported harvest was 58 tonnes, but a panel of international scientists estimated the unreported catch may have been as high as 30 tonnes, bringing the total catch for the season to almost 90 tonnes of fish.

Salmon advocates rejoiced this week, after catch numbers in Greenland showed up as the lowest on record for years. Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, describes how an agreement with Indigenous fishermen led to the low numbers, and is helping to replenish the fish population. 7:01

"Its the broad international scientific consensus that there are not enough adult Atlantic salmon in the whole north Atlantic to support a mixed stock fishery at Greenland," Crabbe said.

Salmon come into Greenland's waters from more than 2,000 rivers. Some come from healthy populations, but others come from rivers where the fish are threatened.

"The fishery can't discriminate between fish taken from a healthy population and fish taken from depressed populations. So that's why the Greenland fishery has a magnified negative effect," Crabbe said.

He said as they head into the second season under this agreement the federation is confident in its efforts to improve reporting and reduce the number of fish taken every year.

With files from Shift