Finally good news about Atlantic salmon


Paul Smith: Finally, good news about Atlantic salmon

Published: 2 Jun 2018

Finally, nearing the beginning of what might prove to be a pivotal season for Atlantic salmon, we get a sweet breeze of fantastic news. Over the past year we have been bombarded by a hurricane of grief, not only on the salmon front, but moose, cod, capelin, caribou, and more. And it never makes the news because not enough folks care, but our sea run brown trout are in dismal shape. I need to write more about that and see if I can catalyze some action. Stay tuned.

To the big news at hand, the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) have reached an agreement to halt the Greenland commercial salmon fishery for the next 12 years. Wow, that is brilliant news. The ASF has been working diligently on this file for the past 12 months and success comes at such a critical time. Bill Taylor, president of the ASF, deserves much of the credit, and I know him to be a tireless advocate for the well being of Atlantic salmon and promotion of angling. From myself, and my fellow NL anglers who share our passion and philosophy on salmon angling, congratulations to Bill Taylor and the ASF. 

Most serious salmon chasers know the dire impact and significance of the Greenland driftnet and long-line fishery for salmon. But for the sake of readers not tied up in the salmon loop, let me explain. The crux of the matter is that they are catching our salmon. Well, not just our Newfoundland and Labrador salmon, but fish from rivers all around the North Atlantic Ocean. Only a tiny percentage of the fish caught and killed are from Greenland’s own rivers. So I suppose it is a matter of philosophical opinion, and maybe international law, on who really owns these fish. Maybe nobody owns them outright, and we should just all get along and co-operate for the sake of conservation and the planet. Yes, that’s the key, cooperation. Salmon know no political borders.

Zero commercial catch off Greenland

Atlantic salmon spawn in our rivers, streams, and tributaries, then they go to the sea in springtime to spend a year or two, maybe three in the ocean. Salmon follow the same life cycle on both sides of the Atlantic, so we are talking about fish from, Canada, U.S.A., Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, and so on. Then they winter in a concentrated fashion either off Greenland or the Faroe Islands. No doubt these concentrations of fish make for very lucrative fishing enterprises. Now both are reduced to zero commercial catch. Only recreational and subsistence fishing will be allowed.

The Faroe Islands fishery has been closed since 1991 and the ban will continue subsequent to a renewal signed in Reykjavik on May 22 with the ASF and NASF. This was the easy part. The Faroese government is quite forward thinking on environmental matters and are pioneers in marine conservation. They have recently emerged as leaders in sustainable aquaculture regulation.

The hard-fought Greenland deal was signed on May 24 in Reykjavik, Iceland. In exchange for no commercial salmon fishing in their waters, the ASF and NASF agreed to financially support alternative economic development, scientific research, and education initiatives focused on marine conservation. This is a very good thing for us NL salmon anglers, and salmon fishers from all over the world. And fishing rods aside, it is just plain great news for biodiversity and long-term survival of an amazing fish species.

You will notice that there is money involved here, and for the most part not government money. Private dollars from people and groups who care are funding this buyout of the Greenland fishery. Each year I contribute to the ASF through my membership fees, and whatever donation that I can afford. Many do the same and it is tax deductible. It is a very important and worthwhile cause if you really are concerned about salmon. For your yearly membership fee you receive four issues of the Atlantic Salmon Journal, which has great reading and photography. And you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are part of the effort to save Atlantic salmon for future generations, not our salmon, but the world’s salmon.

 I have to end on a bit of a rant. Sorry. A few weeks ago I mentioned that we should give up on silly and crazy conspiracy theories. The ASF has long been the target of such nonsense and so to speak “fake news.” I hear it on call on radio shows, newspaper contributions, Facebook, Twitter, and private conversations. I also get direct emails telling me that I am a part of the conspiracy and secret agenda, because I support and say good things about the ASF and its local affiliates.

They say that the long-term goal of the ASF is to privatize Newfoundland and Labrador rivers through a policy of promoting hook and release, kill reductions, and God only knows what else. I see no real logic in all this nonsense. They say that the ASF just wants to save the salmon for their rich friends and contributors so they can hook and release salmon on private waters all day long. This is all bloody bull. And I hope this landmark and hard-fought deal with Greenland demonstrates what the ASF is really all about, saving and conserving salmon for all of us.

Could we please stop fighting amongst ourselves over nonsense and get on with salmon fishing and conservation? And would it be too much too ask for salmon licences to be printed and made available in a convenient fashion at the beginning of the season. If private organizations can halt a destructive fishery in a foreign country, maybe government could issue licences on time. And maybe government should take more seriously what the ASF and other conservation organizations are saying about salmon farms.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock