Québec Releases its Bilan du saumon 2018 - at last

Tom Moffatt, ASF

May 31, 2019
Usually the large pdf that details the angling success and the spawning success of salmon in Quebec's rivers for the previous year comes out in February, but in 2019 it was made public on May 31.

While the report is entirely in French, the tables are not difficult to decipher, and the detail is very good.

Below is the translation of the document's introduction:



With its record-size salmon, and magnificent rivers, Quebec offers exceptional fishing, to the delight of resident anglers and those from elsewhere. To ensure the conservation and enhancement of Atlantic salmon from a sustainable development perspective, the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) rigorously monitors the abundance and exploitation of Atlantic salmon in the province. While the results of specific studies are presented in various scientific reports, this document provides a synthesis of abundance data of adult Atlantic salmon and associated fishing activities in Quebec from 1984 to 2018.

In Quebec, 114 rivers are officially designated as salmon rivers. As some of these rivers contain too few salmon to be allowed to fish, this activity is practical only in about two-thirds of these rivers and tributaries, which are distributed among 11 salmon zones. Zones Q1 to Q4 are located south of the St. Lawrence and zones Q5 to Q9 are on the north shore. Anticosti Island is Q10 and Ungava is Q11.

The law on the Conservation and Development of Wildlife provides that the conservation of breeding stocks must first be ensured before allowing exploitation according to the following allocation priority: fishing for food, ritual and social purposes, sport fishing and commercial fishing. Given the widespread decline in salmon stocks in North America, the commercial salmon fishery was firmly closed in Quebec in 2000. The resource is now shared between two user groups: First Nations and sport fishermen.

The rules in 2018 are based on the 2016-2026 Atlantic Salmon Management Plan. As described in the management plan, new conservation thresholds make it possible to classify salmon populations according to three categories: the critical zone, the precautionary zone and the optimal zone. 

Thus, salmon management is now based on the use of three thresholds. The first two thresholds are specific to each river. This is the optimal conservation threshold and the demographic conservation threshold. Another conservation threshold is based on genetic considerations and remains fixed from one population to another. This is the genetic conservation threshold, which is set at 200 adult salmon per river. In addition to these conservation thresholds, a management target, at a level of abundance above the optimal conservation threshold, determines whether or not large salmon can be harvested.

2018 marked the implementation of the latest regulatory changes announced in the 2016-2026 Atlantic Salmon Management Plan. These are in addition to the many changes implemented in 2016. The changes announced in 2018 are as follows:

• The maximum number of salmon caught and kept annually per fisherman decreases from seven to four, including one large salmon, with the exception of Nord-du-Québec, where it is possible to keep four salmon, large or small;
• The short-term fishing license, previously valid for a single day, is replaced by a license valid for three consecutive days;
• The tag applied to each salmon kept must come from the license of the fisherman who has been fishing.

Balance sheet 2018

Fishing was permitted on 77 rivers in 2018. Harvesting of large salmon was authorized for part of the season on the following six rivers: Matapédia, York, Gros Mécatina, Napetipi, Vieux-Fort and St-Paul. The fishermen on the Natashquan, Moisie, Saint-Jean (North Shore) and Causapscal rivers and the four rivers of Nord-du-Québec have been able to keep large salmon throughout the season. On 59 rivers and tributaries, only the harvest of the grilse was allowed, requiring the release of all large salmon for the entire season. The release of all salmon, large or small, was mandatory on eight rivers.

In Quebec, in 2018, 22,232 adult salmon were counted in the 39 salmon rivers for which counts were made. Total catches by sport fishing amounted to 16,213 salmon, of which 11,219 were released (69%). Of the salmon caught and kept, 4,015 were grilse (80%) and 979 were large salmon (20%). The average fishing success, adjusted to include releases, was 0.25 salmon per fishing day.

2018 is characterized by an 18% decrease in total returns, compared to the five-year average, while returns from grilse were 14% and large salmon returns 21%. Although these returns are relatively small, they remain within the range of multi-year variations observed over the last 20 years. As a result of the abundance of returns observed, the harvest of grilse for sport fishing was 13% lower than the five-year average. Large salmon harvesting has decreased by 55%, largely due to measures to protect large female-dominated salmon. Releases have decreased by 5%. In addition, salmon fishing total days totalled 64,442 fishing days in 2018. This is a slight decrease from the five-year average (1%). There is a slight increase (1%) in license sales in 2018 compared to the previous five years.

The year 2018 was marked by a hot summer and low rainfall in most areas, resulting in difficult fishing conditions. On some rivers for which flows were extremely low, salmon were observed at river mouths at the end of the fishing season, possibly waiting for water conditions conducive to the run. These individuals do not appear in the posting of returns.

The comparison of the data obtained since the implementation of the 2016-2026 Atlantic Salmon Management Plan (2016 to 2018) with the average of the five previous years (2011 to 2015) makes it possible to assess the effect of the new fishing rules on conservation of the resource and evaluate their impact on the use of rivers by fishermen. As a result, the measures implemented in the Management Plan have reduced the harvest of large salmon by 45% while increasing rivers utilized by fishermen by more than 4%.

The exploitation and abundance data are presented in more detail in the form of tables and figures at a province-wide and zone scales. The statistics by river for each of the regions are also included in the appendix.

Details on the release data

The Department now applies a 7% mortality rate related to release. Although release is an effective method to promote the conservation of the species and the sustainability of sport fishing, it is important to consider a mortality rate at the time of release to avoid overestimating the deposition of eggs in the river. For each of the rivers concerned, these estimated mortality rates are recorded in the "Withdrawal" column of the table presented in the appendix.

Although fishermen are encouraged to report their release, this practice is not registered. The statistics available to the Department on this subject are obtained through the good will of the fishermen and the cooperation of the salmon river managers in accounting for them. They therefore represent a minimum number of releases. The Department is also encouraging fishers to report releases for the sound management of the species and the development of a quality salmon fishery.

It should also be noted that the term "sport catch", as used in this report and in the Glossary section, does not include releases. In this regard, as indicated in the glossary, the term "total catch" refers to releases. It is the same for the term "

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