North American Atlantic salmon harvest at all-time low, adult returns up over 2017

ASF annual State of the Populations Report details 2018 returns and harvests
May 30, 2019
ST. ANDREWS – As national delegations arrive in Tromso, Norway for the annual meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, a new report from ASF highlights successes and the conservation challenges faced by wild Atlantic salmon in Canadian and U.S. rivers.

The 2019 State of the Populations report draws on published scientific data to give the public a summary of returns to North America in 2018. Major findings include:

• For the first time since 2015 the number of returning adult Atlantic salmon to North American rivers increased compared to the previous year.
• Gains were mostly attributable to a rebound in small salmon returning to Newfoundland and Labrador.
• Large salmon returns to North America declined again in 2018, continuing a trend that has persisted since 2015

“When it comes to wild Atlantic salmon no two places in North America are the same,” said Bill Taylor, ASF President. “But despite these unique challenges, it’s encouraging that people and governments are doing their part for conservation.”

The overall harvest of Atlantic salmon in North America was at an all-time low in 2018. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea estimates a combined Canadian recreational and Indigenous harvest of 89.5 metric tons, or approximately 36,185 adult salmon. It is the lowest figure since record keeping began in 1972, with year-over-year reductions in both recreational and Indigenous fisheries.

Conservation measures in the recreational fishery that contributed to lower harvest levels included a reduction of tags in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. All other Atlantic Canadian provinces have operated under mandatory live release rules for recreational fishing since 2015.

An additional 24.4 metric tons of salmon in Canada were estimated to have been lost to unreported fishing, mainly poaching. This figure has remained consistent for several years.

There was no reported harvest in the United States where Atlantic salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“Despite the good news on harvest and overall returns, it’s worrying that salmon populations have not rebounded further,” said Taylor. “We’re still losing ground to threats like open net-pen salmon aquaculture, habitat loss, and changing ocean conditions. We’re hopeful that Canada’s new Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy and the new U.S. Atlantic Salmon Recovery Plan will make a difference.”

Ahead of the regular meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization next week in Norway, experts from around the world are holding a two-day symposium to mark the 2019 International Year of the Salmon. The theme is ‘managing the Atlantic salmon in a rapidly changing world.’ ASF staff will make two presentations at the symposium.


For a full breakdown of regional returns and harvests, see ASF’s 2019 State of the Populations Report:

For more on the upcoming annual meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization and the special International Year of the Salmon Symposium visit:

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