Taking stock of the salmon
Low salmon returns causing DFO to take a serious look at it
With salmon numbers down, DFO is looking at a harvesting ban
Geoff Veinott says a significant drop in the number of salmon returning to rivers on the island is the reason behind the Department of Fisheries and Oceans taking a serious look at recommending a harvesting ban for the remainder of the season.
Veinott, a DFO research scientist based in St. John’s, receives weekly reports from the counting facilities around the island and the numbers he’s seen lead him to believe there is a real cause for concern.
Looking at his latest report on July 9, he noticed all rivers were behind where DFO expected them to be at this time of the year. The most dramatic example of the decline is the Exploit’s River, which only had 2,500 fish go through on July 9, which is a far cry from the fiveyear average of 12,700 salmon.
It’s not just in central where the numbers are down. He said numbers are really down in rivers on the northeast coast and Harry’s River on the west coast has seen a 30 per cent drop in the number of silver beaties returning to the river.
“We’ve never seen these kind of numbers this late in the year before so we really don’t know what’s going on,” Veinott said.
While he’s not sure what factors are having an impact on the numbers, he has seen a pattern where salmon tend to come into the rivers late and then the late returns tend to be poor when there is cold springs and heavy ice, which was certainly the case in this province this year.
Management will be looking at its options over the next week and Veinott expects a decision to be made very soon, but he wants people to realize that science isn’t the only factor management has to take into consideration.
He said socio-economic considerations are also important to keep in mind because salmon angling provides an economic boost to the provincial economy and catching and eating fresh Atlantic salmon is part of our culture so these things must be weighed into the decisionmaking process.
“We want to maximize the number of fish left in the river to spawn,” he said when asked what was his focus from a science point of view. “When we see these types of declines that’s our main concern and the only legal harvest of salmon is by angling so if we want to increase the number of salmon that are left in the river then something has to give on the other side I guess is one way of putting it.”
Low salmon returns has DFO pondering a harvesting ban for the rest of the season.