Nova Scotia

Atlantic Salmon Federation calls on Greenland to cut catches

Anglers, conservationists and scientists say wild Atlantic salmon populations are at historic lows and may not recover if fishing practices don't change.

North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization meeting to be held next week to discuss quotas

There are calls for Greenland to end its commercial factory salmon fishery. (CBC)

Graham Greene can remember standing in the brisk waters of an east coast river a decade ago and reeling in one of many wild Atlantic salmon.

He now says that memory stands in stark contrast to an angling experience in Quebec last June at the height of the salmon fishing season.

Over seven days, the Halifax businessman says he saw seven of the prized fish.

"The fish are not there," he said from his fly and tackle shop, explaining that he used to hook and release two to three fish a day.

"But when you go and fish and you don't even see a fish, it's pretty disappointing. It's hard because we're very passionate about it and we'd like to be able to continuing doing it."

That message is a common refrain among anglers, conservationists and scientists, who say wild Atlantic salmon populations are at historic lows and may not recover if fishing practices don't change.

It will be the focus of talks next week at a critical meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, which will try to negotiate quotas for member nations including Canada, the U.S. and the European Union.

Greenland fishery

Some are calling on Greenland to scrap its commercial factory salmon fishery as part of a multinational effort to protect the stock that migrates north to feeding grounds off its west coast from rivers in Canada, the States and other countries.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation released figures Wednesday indicating that Greenland caught 63 per cent of a certain type of salmon that spent two winters off its coast, while Canada harvested 35 per cent of them.

Greenland expanded its kill of wild Atlantic salmon to 58 tonnes last year from 47 tonnes in 2013, a level conservationists say far exceeds sustainability for the species.

Sue Scott of the federation said if Greenland doesn't reduce its take or delay the fishing season, the wild salmon population will continue its steady slide, further diminishing a supply of fish the country says it needs to feed its people.

"Greenland will continue to kill a lot of North American salmon on its feeding grounds, so it will spiral down," she said before heading to Labrador for the meeting Tuesday.

"The point is, that may be true and it's important to be fed but we're getting down to fighting over the last salmon and then nobody will be the victors."

Miramichi stock depletion

Scott points to the stock depletion in New Brunswick's Miramichi River as a sign of the problem, saying it once produced 20 per cent of the country's salmon and now is in "crisis."

The federation says data from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea shows the number of larger salmon in North America last year dropped 13 per cent from the previous year.

It found salmon returns were near record lows for Quebec, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Scotia-Fundy and the U.S.

Scott said she hopes Greenland will follow Canada's lead in restricting the salmon catch. The Fisheries Department took the rare step last month of prohibiting the retention of any wild salmon in the Maritimes after rivers were found to have very low returns of fish.

A ministerial committee is also due to come up with recommendations this summer on how to conserve the species.

Carole Saindon, a Fisheries spokeswoman, said in an email that the department is working with Greenland to come up with a new regulatory measure for the fishery and wants the catch reduced.

"Canada remains highly concerned over the increasing removals of wild Atlantic salmon off west Greenland, which Canada considers go beyond subsistence and into the commercial realm," she said.

Katrine Kaergaard with Greenland's ministry of fisheries said it has reduced its salmon fishery for more than 20 years, but the stock shows no sign of improving.

She said that suggest other factors, such as aquaculture, climate change and predators, are causing stock declines.

"Greenland has made compromises and sacrifices for many years and will continue to seek out co-operation within NASCO," she said in an email.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.