Chronicle Herald

Bad news and good news for Atlantic salmon in recent population report

May 30, 2019
Wild Atlantic salmon in the Bay of Fundy and Atlantic coast of mainland Nova Scotia are near historic lows, says a recent population report.

While the number of returning adult Atlantic salmon to North American rivers increased for the first time since 2015, enhancement and recovery efforts remain the goal for the Scotia-Fundy area.

“Many populations in the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic coast of mainland Nova Scotia have been lost,” the Atlantic Salmon Federation said in its report released Thursday.

Only six per cent of Atlantic salmon that spent two winters at sea returned to the region in 2018.

Small salmon returns were estimated at 1,346 — the second lowest on record.

The minimum number of eggs required to sustain population in Eastern Cape Breton, Middle, Baddeck and North were down 60 per cent, 43 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, from 2017.

Eggs needed to sustain population in the LaHave River also dropped from the previous year, decreasing from seven per cent to four per cent.

Margaree River, in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence region, saw an increase in returning salmon in 2018.

“When it comes to wild Atlantic salmon, no two places in North America are the same,” Bill Taylor, Atlantic Salmon Federation president, said in a news release.

Margaree River saw 2,250 large salmon and 456 small salmon return, up 49 per cent and 22 per cent respectively, from 2018.

“Both figures remain below the long-term average of 2,750 large salmon and 900 small salmon,” the report said.

Overall, the harvest of Atlantic salmon in North America was at an all-time low last year.

Roughly 24,400 kilograms of salmon in Canada were lost to unreported fishing, mainly poaching, the report said.

“Despite the good news on harvest and overall returns, it’s worrying that salmon populations have not rebounded further,” Taylor said.

“We’re still losing ground to threats like open net-pen salmon aquaculture, habitat loss, and changing ocean conditions.”

The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization will meet in Norway next week to discuss “managing the Atlantic salmon in a rapidly changing world.”

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