Scheduled to appear at a conference in Greenland in early June, the Atlantic Salmon Federation is calling on the governments of Canada and Greenland to stop killing large salmon. The ASF recommends no harvesting of wild Atlantic salmon in the ocean at Greenland and in the Labrador Sea.

Mostly large egg-bearing females, these salmon seed the rivers of Labrador, the Maritimes, Quebec and Maine. Although the total number of two-sea-winter (2SW) salmon in the ocean is well below the number required to meet minimum North American conservation requirements, the fish continue to be killed in gill net fisheries in Greenland, Canada, and St. Pierre and Miquelon, says ASF president Bill Taylor. The number of salmon killed in Greenland has jumped from 12 tonnes in 2003 to 43 tonnes in 2010.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea states that 80 per cent, or 10,000, of the large salmon killed at Greenland in 2010 were of North American origin. Meanwhile, Canada continues to allow the kill of large salmon in recreational fisheries in Quebec, in First Nations fisheries in all provinces and in a resident food fishery in Labrador. This weakens the Canadian government’s position in asking Greenland to reduce its harvest, says Taylor.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported a kill of 7,800 large salmon in Aboriginal fisheries last year. 3,200 were killed in recreational fisheries. The ASF is especially concerned by these kill rates because of the low returns of 2SW salmon in 2010. They’ve decreased from 2009 by 65 per cent in Labrador, 51 per cent in Newfoundland and 14 per cent in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Conversely, there was an increase of large salmon in Quebec of seven per cent. The estimated abundance of 2SW salmon in North American rivers was 12 per cent lower than the estimated average abundance of the previous ten years, and was the second lowest of the last 40 years.

“In view of these sobering numbers, it is astonishing that Canada still allows the kill of large Atlantic salmon,” Taylor says. “It is of paramount importance for international negotiations that Greenlanders see that Canada is doing its utmost to conserve its salmon in home waters.”

The ASF is urging Canada to implement management plans for all salmon fisheries that end the killing of large spawners, especially in rivers that are not even meeting minimum conservation targets.