DFO May Ban Salmon Harvest in NL Due to Low Numbers


Salmon numbers so low this season DFO scientists may recommend a ban

Exploits River, for example, is 80% smaller than 5 year average, says scientist Geoff Veinott

By Andrew Sampson, CBC News
Posted: Jul 13, 2017 7:00 AM NT

For what may be the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador history, low salmon numbers are pushing researchers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to consider recommending a ban on the harvest for the rest of the season.

Scientist Geoff Veinott said Wednesday the number of salmon in the ocean is so low this summer that if that doesn't change fast, the department will be forced to recommend that a catch and release system be implemented.

"The numbers are still well behind what we'd expect for this time of the year, especially on the northeast coast," he said.

"On the Exploits River as of the ninth of July, we only had 2,500 fish pass through the Bishop's Falls fishway. The five year average for that facility is 12,700."

Similarly low numbers have been reported in Salmon Brook, near Gander, Campbellton on the road to Lewisporte, and Middle Brook, Veinott said.

"It's getting pretty desperate right now," he told CBC's The Broadcast.  

"You've got to go back to basically 1992, 1993 to see numbers that low this late in the year."

Decision to be made in next week

According to Veinott, DFO actively monitors salmon levels across 12 rivers in Newfoundland and four rivers in Labrador.

While they generally see lower salmon numbers during seasons with heavy pack ice, he said DFO is not seeing a higher salmon mortality rate this season.

"All the fish that seem to make it back to our river seem to be fine, healthy, really good looking fish," he said.

"If they were offshore and delayed by the ice, and then the ice goes away, and the fish don't come in that sort of begs the question of what happened to them."

Veinott said a decision on whether or not to halt the salmon harvest will likely be made by fisheries management within the next week.

"I'm not terribly optimistic. We would need 1,000 fish a day for the next two weeks on the Exploits, for example, to catch up, and I don't think that would even get us back to average."