Disappointing Returns of Wild Atlantic Salmon This Year

For immediate release       September 24, 2012   

St. Andrews…  It is now apparent to the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) that there has been a major decline in this year’s return of wild Atlantic salmon to most Canadian rivers.  In Newfoundland and Labrador, returns have decreased from 2011 by 25-30% on average, with counts on some rivers, like Harry’s, down by as much as 50% and Sandhill River down by as much as 60%. 


“This is especially disappointing after the very good returns of 2010 and 2011,” said Don Ivany,  ASF’s Program Director for Newfoundland and Labrador.  While there were a number of  anecdotal reports of  salmon holding in local bays this year because of  prolonged low water levels, with the expectation that they would enter rivers when water levels improved, this did not happen. 


Overall the larger salmon that return to Canadian rivers from the Greenland feeding grounds are down, but not extremely so.  However, grilse (salmon that spend one winter at sea) have decreased in all regions. While there are too many variables for scientists to determine exactly why grilse numbers have declined so precipitously this year; low adult returns in 2007 and sea survival this past year could be contributing factors. 


Whatever the reason, given the current economic value of wild Atlantic salmon, it is unfortunate that the federal government is not conducting more research and investing in better management for this resource.  Instead, the federal government is slashing budgets, closing offices, and eliminating positions.  In Newfoundland and Labrador, all DFO regional habitat offices, and all conservation and protection satellite offices were closed this year.  Gardner Pinfold estimated, in a recent study, that wild Atlantic salmon generated $150 million annually in GDP in Atlantic Canada and Quebec and supported 3,872 full-time equivalent jobs in rural parts of the country.  “It is imperative that the Federal Government do more to protect this valuable resource and the large number of jobs it supports,” stated Mr. Ivany.


This year’s low returns also emphasize the importance of two particular conservation measures.  Since 2002, ASF and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund of Iceland have had an agreement with Greenland’s commercial salmon fishermen to suspend this fishery to allow more North American salmon that migrate to Greenland’s feeding grounds to return to home rivers to spawn.  Anglers who practice live release also play an important role by carefully releasing salmon and grilse to continue upstream to spawn.  Anglers should refrain from fishing when water temperatures are too warm to ensure the salmon’s survival.



The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well-being and survival depend.  ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England).  The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.

Returns for Newfoundland and Labrador counting facilities can be found at: