Response on Conne River Salmon

For immediate release                            
September 10, 2013

Dear Editor-

Corner Brook - I am writing you on behalf of the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), to clear up some false statements made by Cyr Couturier, President of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, which appeared in a Letter to the Editor in the Coaster on August 20th.  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) maintains a database of salmon counts from many rivers across Atlantic Canada, and we are well-informed about the situation on the Conne River.  Mr. Couturier’s statement that there are “above average returns once again this year” on the Conne River, which “demonstrate that salmon farms and wild salmon can coexist” is simply not true.  To the contrary: the South Newfoundland Atlantic salmon population, which includes the Conne River, is the only population of salmon  in NL to be considered for federal listing under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.  Coincidentally, this is also the only population of salmon whose range falls within the heart of NL’s open net pen salmon farming industry.

Here are some facts about salmon counts on the Conne River.  The numbers are slightly up this year (2,435) compared to last (1,960), but the run is still below conservation targets (minimum spawning requirements).  And the counts are far from “above average”.   Conne River used to have upwards of 7,000 -10,000 fish returning annually prior to the 1980’s; now it has 2,400 fish returning annually, and some-if not many-of these 2,400 fish are likely escaped farmed salmon.   

Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive monitoring programs to sample and identify returning salmon as wild or farmed on the Conne River, or any other river on the South Coast. Based on tips given to them from the general public, DFO has confirmed the presence of escaped farmed salmon in at least six other rivers adjacent to the aquaculture industry this year alone; so there’s no reason to believe that they’re not in the Conne River as well.   In fact, the Conne River Band sent 15 salmon caught in the Little River estuary adjacent to the Conne last winter to DFO for testing and they were all confirmed to be aquaculture fish!

Mr. Couturier goes on to say that “there are thriving recreational fisheries in all other jurisdictions where salmon farming occurs, thus confirming that farmed and wild salmon can coexist”.  Sadly, the opposite is true.   Scientific studies show that wherever open net pen salmon farms occur, wild salmon returns to adjacent rivers are 30-50% below counts in rivers that don’t have salmon farms nearby.  For example, there are no longer any recreational salmon fisheries in any of the rivers that flow into the Bay of Fundy, where salmon are farmed at some of the highest densities in the world.  Absolutely none.  

Recreational salmon fishing along the south coast of Newfoundland is already limited.  If the federal government accepts the recommendation put forth by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) to list the South NL salmon population as ‘Threatened’, there is a strong possibility that opportunities for recreational angling will become even more limited.  To be sure, the interaction of wild salmon with farmed salmon is cited as one of the greatest threats to this population’s recovery.  For this reason, ASF would like to see the aquaculture industry move to land-based, closed containment facilities.

Finally, I have to call into question Mr. Couturier’s statement that “30 years of responsible salmon farm development also shows us that our industry does not have a negative or long term impact to other coastal resources”.   If Mr. Couturier could please show us a list of the scientific studies that his industry has funded over the last 30 years that prove that their industry does not have a negative or long term impact on wild Atlantic salmon and  other coastal resources, ASF would be happy to consider them.  Fact is, there have been virtually no such studies done.  

Don Ivany, Director, Newfoundland and Labrador Programs.  
Atlantic Salmon Federation


The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well-being and survival depend.  ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England).  The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.

ASF Contact:  

Don Ivany, Director, NL Programs: DIvany@asf.ca ; 709-632-5100
Livia Goodbrand, Manager of Public Information: Lgoodbrand@asf.ca; 506-529-1033 (o); 506-469-1033 (c)