By JARRETT ARSENAULT
CAMPBELLTON – The Atlantic Salmon Federation’s (ASF) wild salmon count for this year looks grim for fishermen and conservationists alike, having dropped an average of 25-30 per cent in the province.
The Federation’s head office is located in St. Andrews's NB, and analyses data from counting facilities in many areas across Newfoundland and Labrador. The ASF monitors the number of wild salmon coming and going in the province, and this year the count was down across the board.
“There’s always some fluctuation in returns from year to year, because there’s always a number of variables at play that may affect the returns,” said regional director of the ASF Don Ivany. “Twenty per cent change from one year to another wouldn’t necessarily be over alarming, but if that trend continues, obviously it would be.”
There isn’t an obvious cause for alarm just yet, as the numbers have decreased after a 2007-2011 increase. The current numbers reflect the salmon counts for each river in the report, but do not provide the cause to the decline.
“The counts certainly indicate that (the salmon numbers) are down at the fishways, but in Corner Brook Stream here we introduced salmon about 10 or 12 years ago and actually our count was pretty good this year. It was up,” said Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland representative Keith Piercey.
Fluctuations, as Mr. Ivany said, are to be expected as several factors can play into less salmon in the rivers. Aquaculture (farmed fish) as it functions currently is becoming known as a contributing factor, not only in Canada, but in other countries as well.
“There’s an overwhelming body of science that very clearly documents the negative impacts of aquaculture on wild fish, and interestingly the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland is located on the south coast of the province and the rivers on the south coast of the island of Newfoundland right now have been recommended by COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada to be listed as threatened,” said Mr. Ivany.
Other factors that can play a role in decreased salmon populations are: higher water temperatures, ice conditions, intercepting fisheries either legal or illegal, recreational anglers, and predation, most of which tie in to sea survival.
The Salmon Advisory Council, which includes Fisheries and Oceans Canada, AFS, and other institutions will meet Oct. 19 in Gander to discuss salmon sea survival for the year. A clearer picture would be painted at this meeting for affected parties and what, if any, course of action should be taken.
“It’s the first round of the DFO consultations. They meet with a number of the larger user groups of the province and they usually present some preliminary data to give us an idea of what’s been happening for the last year that are preventing the adult returns,” said Mr. Ivany.
There will be other topics relating to salmon discussed at the meeting as well. One of these topics is the potential of some salmon runs that have yet to be recognized officially.
“There’s still a hundred rivers that are on a list that have established salmon runs that are not even designated as scheduled rivers, and that’s one of the things that’s supposed to come up in this meeting as well. They think that some of these rivers are finally going to be identified as scheduled rivers,” said Mr. Piercey.