The Greenland Conservation Agreement Is A Huge Win For The Imperiled Atlantic Salmon

Monte Burke

May 29, 2018
The Atlantic salmon is a species that has suffered a precipitous 40-year decline all across its native North Atlantic range. In the 1970s and 80s, an estimated 1.8 million Atlantics returned to North American rivers to spawn. That number has since declined to fewer than 500,000.

Two centuries ago, hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon swam up the Penobscot and Connecticut rivers in the United States to spawn each year. Today, they are listed as an endangered species in the U.S. In Canada, the once abundant rivers of the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are nearly barren of salmon, which are officially listed as a “species at risk.” In 2017, for the first time since monitoring began in 1992, not a single wild salmon returned to spawn in the Magaguadavic River in New Brunswick.

Hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon will be saved under this new agreement. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Though there are pockets of healthy salmon runs in the North Atlantic—in Russia and in some rivers in Labrador—the general trend for Atlantic salmon has been sharply downward. It is a species in grave peril.

Which is what makes the news that the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) have reached an agreement to essentially buy out the commercial nets off of Greenland such a heartening development. Atlantic salmon were in dire need of help. And now they’ve gotten it.

To be sure, Atlantics face all sorts of threats: Dams in the rivers of the U.S., recreational overharvest in some parts of Canada, a booming—and voracious—population of striped bass in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that feasts on young salmon, the devastation wrought by salmon aquaculture, and warming ocean waters. But perhaps the most direct hazard to Atlantic salmon stocks in the North Atlantic has been the commercial harvest that takes place each winter in the species’ oceanic feeding ground off the coast of Greenland.

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