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Aug 2, 2023
ASF’s current strategic plan was developed in 2018. This plan outlined the priorities for ASF for the coming five years including objectives and activities that ASF would undertake.
The 2018-2023 strategic plan had 4 goals:
We have made significant progress towards achieving these goals over the past 5 years.
We have made great progress towards ensuring that fisheries are sustainable. In Greenland, we have been working hard with our partners at the North Atlantic Salmon Fund to reduce the quotas for Atlantic salmon in West Greenland. As the 2021 season resulted in large overharvest, in 2022, the Greenland government agreed to close the fishery when 49% of the quota was reported. This figure was based on analysis of previous year’s harvest reporting and was chosen to allow for delays in fishers’ reports being submitted as well as harvests to stop once closures are announced. The 2022 harvest at West Greenland amounted to 27 tonnes – the lowest in more than a decade. Through the Greenland Salmon Conservation Agreement, we will continue to work towards a target of a 20-tonne harvest.
DFO’s pilot program on the Miramichi river for their Precautionary Approach (PA) to wild Atlantic salmon management continues. Currently ASF is not aware of any expanded plans to assess salmon populations, and angling continues to be the sole focus. We know that catch and release angling impacts to salmon populations are minimal and ASF believes the overall conservation benefits of angling far outweigh minimal impacts. There is a lot of conservation value in having anglers on the rivers; they are stewards of these rivers, provide a lot of local knowledge, and reduce illegal poaching. We believe that unduly removing anglers from the rivers may have a negative impact on the overall health of salmon populations and are advocating for an approach that considers the significant value of that angling contributes to the health of rivers. DFO continues to resist any reversal of a recent decision in Gulf Region to reduce the daily catch and release limit from four to two bright salmon. ASF recently worked with a wide group of NB salmon conservation groups on a letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asking for the decision to be reversed.
Our Research and Environment team has been hard at work over the past 5 years to try to improve our understanding of Atlantic salmon mortality by tracking them. ASF’s Research team assisted with kelt capture work in early spring 2022 with some rivers experiencing very early kelt migrations. Smolt wheels were installed on the NW and SW Miramichi rivers and the Cascapedia river as part of ASF’s long-term monitoring program, to capture and tag smolts.
Following our success in deploying satellite tags on salmon at West Greenland in 2021 ASF was planning for the same number of deployments in 2022, however through partners and the ESRF program we were able to increase the number of satellite tags available for deployment. Experience garnered from our field efforts in 2021, coupled with what appears to be a high concentration of salmon in the Qaqortoq area meant a smooth field operation for 2022.
ASF tagged 2 adult striped bass in the lower reaches of the Southwest Miramichi River in October 2022. This project was launched in response to large abundances of striped bass being observed in these areas in autumn 2021. Striped bass return to the river to overwinter after spending the summer months in the marine waters of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The project is intended to explore movements and behaviour of adult striped bass in freshwater and infer possible impacts on Atlantic salmon. Deployed tags will also increase our sample size for analysis of striped bass movements and impacts on smolts in spring. ASF is seeking clarification on our tagging permit for 2022 and it is possible additional striped bass could be tagged before winter.
ASF continues with our Aquaculture Campaign with the key message that open net-pen salmon aquaculture is having significant negative impacts on Canada’s wild Atlantic salmon and their marine habitat and that Canada must take responsibility for these impacts and develop timely and effective solutions. The campaign will ensure decision-makers accept the science surrounding ONP aquaculture and build a broad base of support across the conservation community to demand change.
ASF is improving fish passage, particularly in Maine under our US Programs. In July 2022, the Walton’s Mill dam in Farmington, ME was removed opening up 54 miles of important cold- water spawning and rearing habitat in the Sandy River tributary of the Kennebec River watershed. This is the largest dam removal project that ASF has undertaken under the Maine Headwaters Project to date.
We have launched our Wild Salmon Watersheds program and began work in three watersheds – the Terra Nova river in Newfoundland and Labrador, the sister rivers of Cheticamp and Margaree in Nova Scotia, and the Nepisiguit river in New Brunswick. ASF continues to work with FQSA as a program partner in Quebec. An expert facilitation process has been developed and each of the three initial locations has completed a facilitated session with all watershed leaders.
ASF continues to engage with the Province of New Brunswick on the expansion of provincial protected areas from 4% to 10%. ASF worked closely with government staff to ensure that many of the new conservation zones are focused on the headwaters, cold-water features, and other sensitive riparian areas of Atlantic salmon rivers. This more than doubles New Brunswick’s protected areas and therefore provides real, meaningful, and permanent habitat protection for wild salmon and other cold-water species.
ASF and partners were able to deliver smallmouth bass eradication action on Lake Brook and the Southwest Miramichi in September of 2022. Circumstances including lawsuits, injunctions and illegal occupations of crown lands delayed our plans from August, and ultimately resulted in the project proponent not pursuing the full treatment of Miramichi Lake, the brook, and river. We continue to work with project partners to share in the significant project expenses. The complex delivery was executed extremely well, the treatment was delivered as scheduled in one day, all crews carried out their assignments fully, and there were no safety or health issues. It is an open question as to what happens in the future with smallmouth bass in the Miramichi. Although the full treatment of the lake, brook and river was not completed, the treatment of the brook and river in September was a major achievement for ASF and partners.
The cold-water refugia project partnership between ASF, indigenous, academic and eNGO organizations continues. The program began in 2019 and progresses through to 2023 with the goal of enhancing 10 sites throughout the watershed. To date, four sites have been successfully constructed. The six sites remaining are on track for construction in 2023.