Frequently asked questions about ASF's new freshwater program

What is a Wild Salmon Watershed?

Mar 28, 2023
Pabineau Falls on the Nepisiguit River in northern New Brunswick, where ASF has partnered with the Nepisiguit Salmon Association and Pabineau First Nation to create one of the first Wild Salmon Watersheds. Photo ASF
ASF's Wild Salmon Watersheds program was launched in 2022. Partnerships were struck with Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations in three watersheds: the Nepisiguit River in New Brunswick, the Margaree and Cheticamp rivers in Nova Scotia, and the Terra Nova River in Newfoundland and Labrador.

ASF's vision is a North American network of up to 30 partner watersheds in places where wild Atlantic salmon are thriving and the connection between people and salmon is strong. By helping our partners execute long-term conservation strategies, we will conserve and protect what's working and ensure the future of wild Atlantic salmon.

For more information please contact Kris Hunter, director of Wild Salmon Watersheds for ASF -

Here are some frequently asked questions about the program: 

What is a Wild Salmon Watershed?

ASF looks for the following biological and social characteristics when evaluating a river for inclusion in the Wild Salmon Watersheds program: It must be in North America, the river should have a self-sustaining population of Atlantic salmon, and it should be free of multiple compounding threats, like hydroelectric dams, invasive fish species, nearby open net pen salmon aquaculture sites, and others.

Socially, a Wild Salmon Watershed must have active salmon fisheries, and there must be at least one group of people in the area, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, already engaged in river activities. ASF will consider exceptions to the criteria when evaluating candidate rivers.

What’s innovative about the program?

Government, Indigenous, and non-government organizations, including ASF, have traditionally focused on restoration where populations have reached critical levels and habitat is badly damaged. This necessary work should continue, but climate change threatens all rivers and calls for a new approach to Atlantic salmon conservation.

Wild Salmon Watersheds is designed to conserve and protect rivers where salmon still thrive, and prevent future declines. We will do this by equipping local partners with the knowledge and resources to complete long-lasting conservation projects. 

Non-profit and Indigenous organizations working on community wellness and environmental goals often struggle to secure stable, long-term support. Priorities can change yearly, depending granting programs.

Wild Salmon Watersheds will help overcome this problem. ASF will provide reliable funding and support so our partners can think big and focus on what's right for generations of salmon and people to come.

A recognized problem in conservation is a lack of monitoring results and sharing knowledge. By necessity groups often complete a project, write a final report, and move on.

To address this, Wild Salmon Watersheds will connect all our partners in a vibrant network where best practices, lessons learned, even tools and equipment can be shared. ASF will facilitate the network and inform it. For example, our scientists will help design long-term monitoring projects to measure the effects of the program on water temperature, flows, salmon returns, and more. 

Wild Salmon Watersheds is focused on long-term, proactive conservation and protection of land and water to prevent declines and build resiliency to climate change. 
Geoff Giffin, one of the designers of ASF's Wild Salmon Watersheds program, stands in front of a massive landslide that spilled thousands of tons of wood, rock, and dirt into the Cheticamp River in 2018. Wild Salmon Watersheds will equip partners like the Cheticamp River Salmon Association to respond to chronic and acute threats caused by climate change. Photo ASF

What is ASF's role?

ASF's role is to facilitate the conservation and protection of each Wild Salmon Watershed for generations to come. We will provide funding, access to advanced scientific resources, and be the steward of the Wild Salmon Watersheds network. We want to inspire long-term, big picture thinking in our partners and help them achieve their conservation goals.

What is the role of partner organizations?

ASF’s Wild Salmon Watersheds partners are a source of traditional and local knowledge. They are central participants in the creation of conservation plans. They are champions and advocates that ensure everyone knows their river is a special place. Wild Salmon Watersheds partners are ready to stand up to current and future threats and they are doers, with boots in the river carrying out critical conservation work.

What kind of work will happen in a Wild Salmon Watershed?

Work happens in the water, on the land, and in the boardroom. Projects will differ from place to place, depending on needs, but examples include:

  • Mapping current and future land uses in the area
  • Assessing the watershed’s vulnerability to climate change and identifying key ecological areas
  • Thermal imaging surveys to identify cold water sources
  • Habitat improvement, like riverbank stabilization and cold-water pool enhancement
  • Monitoring salmon populations and environmental conditions
  • Advocating for land and water protections that contribute to Canada’s 30x30 target
  • Enhancing connections between people and the watershed
  • Outreach to local communities and leaders
Don Ivany, ASF regional program director for Newfoundland and Labrador, speaks with Ed Stewart, a board member of the Freshwater-Alexander Bays Ecosystem Corporation, on the Terra Nova River. FABEC is a conservation leader in the area and an ASF Wild Salmon Watersheds partner. Photo Kris Hunter/ASF

How will Indigenous people help shape ASF's Watersheds program?

ASF will seek Indigenous partners and embrace two-eyed seeing perspectives. We will strive for excellent, professional relationships with Inuit, Metis, and First Nations communities.

How long does the Wild Salmon Watersheds program last in my area?

The benefits of the program for salmon are intended to be permanent, and membership in the Wild Salmon Watersheds network will not expire, but after major conservation work is accomplished, ASF may reduce its direct support for partners.

A goal of the program is building durable, local, conservation organizations. ASF’s team of nearly 40 professionals can mentor people on research techniques, communications, project management, fundraising, and more. 

Our vision is that each Wild Salmon Watershed will have abundant and resilient runs of fish supported by a self-sustained group of volunteers and professionals.

Questions? Contact Kris Hunter -

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