Government, Indigenous, and non-government organizations, including ASF, have traditionally focused on restoration where populations have reached critical levels and habitat is badly damaged. This necessary work should continue, but climate change threatens all rivers and calls for a new approach to Atlantic salmon conservation. Wild Salmon Watersheds is designed to conserve and protect rivers where salmon still thrive and prevent future declines. We will do this by equipping local partners with the knowledge and resources to complete long-lasting conservation projects. ASF’s vision is a North American network of up to 30 partner watersheds in places where wild Atlantic salmon are thriving and the connection between people and salmon is strong.

Non-profit and Indigenous organizations working on community wellness and environmental goals often struggle to secure stable, long-term support. Priorities can change yearly, depending on granting programs. Wild Salmon Watersheds will help overcome this problem. ASF will provide reliable funding and support so our partners can think big and focus on what’s right for generations of salmon and people to come.

A recognized problem in conservation is a lack of monitoring results and sharing knowledge. By necessity groups often complete a project, write a final report, and move on. To address this, Wild Salmon Watersheds will connect all our partners in a vibrant network where best practices, lessons learned, even tools and equipment can be shared. ASF will facilitate the network and inform it. For example, our scientists will help design long-term monitoring projects to measure the effects of the program on water temperature, flows, salmon returns, and more.

ASF’s Wild Salmon Watersheds program was launched in 2022. Partnerships were struck with Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations in three watersheds: the Nepisiguit River in New Brunswick, the Margaree and Cheticamp rivers in Nova Scotia, and the Terra Nova River in Newfoundland and Labrador.

ASF looks for the following biological and social characteristics when evaluating a river for inclusion in the Wild Salmon Watersheds program: It must be in North America, the river should have a self-sustaining population of Atlantic salmon, and it should be free of multiple compounding threats, like hydroelectric dams, invasive fish species, nearby open net pen salmon aquaculture sites, and others. Socially, a Wild Salmon Watershed must have active salmon fisheries, and there must be at least one group of people in the area, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, already engaged in river activities. ASF will consider exceptions to the criteria when evaluating candidate rivers.

ASF’s role is to facilitate the conservation and protection of each Wild Salmon Watershed for generations to come. We will provide funding, access to advanced scientific resources, and be the steward of the Wild Salmon Watersheds network. We want to inspire long-term, big picture thinking in our partners and help them achieve their conservation goals.

ASF’s Wild Salmon Watersheds partners are a source of traditional and local knowledge. They are central participants in the creation of conservation plans. They are champions and advocates that ensure everyone knows their river is a special place. Wild Salmon Watersheds partners are ready to stand up to current and future threats and they are doers, with boots in the river carrying out critical conservation work.

The benefits of the program for salmon are intended to be permanent, and membership in the Wild Salmon Watersheds network will not expire, but after major conservation work is accomplished, ASF may reduce its direct support for partners.

A goal of the program is building durable, local, conservation organizations. ASF’s team of nearly 40 professionals can mentor people on research techniques, communications, project management, fundraising, and more.

Our vision is that each Wild Salmon Watershed will have abundant and resilient runs of fish supported by a self-sustained group of volunteers and professionals.


Meet our team: Kris Hunter

Kris is the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s Regional Director for the Wild Salmon Watersheds program and the Director of Programs for Prince Edward Island.  Kris’s background is in applied salmon biology and ecology with an emphasis on restoration techniques, assessment, and strategic planning, where he has over 20 years of experience.  Prior to joining ASF in 2019, Kris spent the previous 12 years as a lab instructor at St. Francis Xavier University. Kris served as a director of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association for the over 10 years, including 2 years as president.  He has previously been the president of the St. Mary’s River Association, vice president and project manager of Habitat Unlimited, and served on the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation’s NS advisory council.  Kris loves to get outside and has been an active volunteer within his community of Antigonish, NS.

If you have any questions about the Wild Salmon Watersheds program, you can contact Kris at