The Telegram

Slight improvement in Atlantic salmon stocks, but caution applauded among anglers and conservationists

Cory Hurley

Mar 12, 2019
CORNER BROOK, N.L. — A recreational salmon angler from western Newfoundland wants to continue one of his passions for years to come, but admits selfishly wanting a certain number of fish for his plate every year.
John Shears was happy to hear the Department of Fisheries and Oceans report the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) recently informed them of a slight, overall improvement in atlantic salmon stocks in the province.

“I don’t know if that will lead to being able to get more fish this summer, but I would like to see that,” he said.

However, Nick Kelly, aquatic science biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says there is still a lot of concern over last year’s Atlantic salmon stocks. The result is a continued need for a precautionary approach, he said. So, Shears isn’t expecting to see a full slate of tags for the recreational angler this summer. He believes limiting the number of salmon caught is the wise move.

“In the end, I wouldn’t want to be never able to take another fish from the Humber,” he said. “Hopefully, they bounce back, and they will talk about this as an exception years down the road.”

Kelly presented the information on the 2018 salmon stocks during a technical briefing Tuesday morning. The statistics are provided to the organization from four rivers in Labrador and 17 on the island. While, overall, there was a slight improvement on many assessed rivers from the unprecedented low of 2016-2017, the biologist reported stocks were critical in two of the four Labrador rivers and eight of the 17 rivers on the island. Also, 31 per cent of the rivers showed declines in total returns and three of the rivers had declines of more than 30 per cent compared to the previous five-six years. On top of that 75 per cent of rivers showed declines in large salmon.

John McCarthy, president of the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland (SPAWN), says he believes and respects the science that leads to decision making. However, he would like to see that science expanded to include the Humber River and Gander River.

“Until they figure it out — and it all comes down to money, federally and provincially, and the money is not there for health care and education so it is kind of hard to get it for recreational salmon fishing — the science they have is the best thing we have,” he said.

He also has an issue with rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador closing when the temperature is above 18C, especially when that is not used in other provinces.

McCarthy says indications are a tag(s) will be available this year, but he believes that is “political.” He says recreational angling isn’t an adequate food source as much as it is a privilege.

Meanwhile, Steve Sutton, coordinator of community engagement for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, says the federation remains concerned about the status of the salmon populations. While there are signs of movement in the right direction, he said, it is far from a good position. He applauds the indication that the department will continue with a precautionary approach.

“They are being cautious to open the season, making sure they don’t allocate too many tags to start, and I think that is the right approach,” he said. “We have to be cautious. We don’t know what the season is going to bring, but the last few years have not been good.”

Atlantic Salmon - stock status (western Newfoundland area rivers)


Total Returns


Harry’s River
: 2018 - 3,054, stock status (%) 2016 - 128, 2017 - 72, 2018 - 101

Corner Brook Stream
: 2018 - 112, stock status (%) 2016 - 273, 2017 - 145, 2018 - 201

Robinson’s River
: 2018 - 1,300, stock status (%) 2016 - (N/A), 2017 - (N/A), 2018 - 70

Middle Barachois Brook
: 2018 - 456, stock status (%) 2016 - (N/A), 2017 - (N/A), 2018 - 39

Deer Arm Brook
: 2018 - 290, stock status (%) 2016 - N/A, 2017 - N/A, 2018 - >200

Torrent River
: 2018 - 4,657, stock status (%) 2016 - 665, 2017 - 534, 2018 - 712

Western Arm Brook
: 2018 - 1,432, stock status (%) 2016 405, 2017 - 324, 2018 - 499

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