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Wild Atlantic salmon returns in North America near historic low in 2019



ST. ANDREWS – ASF’s annual State of Wild Atlantic Salmon Report, released today, shows last year’s adult salmon returns to North America were among the lowest in a 49-year data series, continuing a downward trend that threatens the sustainability of the species.

In recent decades, the human harvest of wild Atlantic salmon has been significantly reduced through a series of conservation measures, helping to stabilize some populations, but recovery has been inhibited.

“Wild Atlantic salmon are struggling to adapt to warming rivers, changing oceans, and pressure from human development that continues to alter waterways and landscapes,” said Bill Taylor, President of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “It will take provincial and federal governments working side-by-side with First Nations organizations, watershed groups, and NGOs on priority projects to make a change.”

Throughout North America, freshwater habitat has been degraded by dams, industrial forestry, large-scale agriculture, and invasive species, making rivers less resilient to climate change. In bays and estuaries where open net pen salmon aquaculture is present, young salmon are exposed to intense concentrations of sea-lice and infectious agents. By-catch in commercial fisheries persists and surging predator populations are wreaking havoc on vulnerable species.

“The combined effect is that fewer juvenile salmon parr are living to become smolt, and fewer smolt are making it successfully to their ocean feeding grounds,” said Taylor. “ASF and its partners in Greenland and Iceland have agreed to reduce harvests at sea. Our collaborative marine tracking program has revealed migration timing and routes which will inform conservation action. However, at home in Canada and the United States there remains much to be done, especially in freshwater.”

The State of Wild Atlantic Salmon Report documents troubling features like persistent and severe declines in North American grilse, which are adult salmon that have spent a single winter at sea, and critically low large salmon returns to many rivers in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

“People have continuously been asked to give up rights and privileges in the name of conservation, but those sacrifices have not been matched by meaningful action from governments. It’s time for governments to coordinate with each other, follow through on commitments, and make decisions on tough issues. In turn, government leaders will find broad support, help, and advice from people who care about wild salmon and wild rivers,” said Taylor.

The full State of Wild Atlantic Salmon Report can be downloaded as a .pdf of 1MB here:

Link to be added when available

To arrange interviews please contact:
Neville Crabbe or (506) 529-1033

The Atlantic Salmon Federation was founded in 1948 to conserve and restore wild Atlantic salmon and their environment

ASF 2020 State of the Salmon Population Report

Pre-fishery Abundance for two-sea-winter Atlantic salmon

Releasing an Atlantic salmon on the Bonaventure River. Kelsey Taylor/ASF

Main Restigouche River. Nathan Wilbur/ASF