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Greenland to take more salmon than expected

MIRAMICHI LEADER - A3

Greenland to take more salmon than expected
JOHN CHILIBECK
June 20, 2018

LEGISLATURE BUREAU

In a surprise move, Greenland has said it will harvest more endangered wild Atlantic salmon this year than under the terms spelled out in a new agreement to conserve the fighting fish.

The news alarms people trying to ensure the species’ survival because of dwindling numbers on famous salmon rivers such as the Miramichi, Restigouche and St. John in New Brunswick.

“The international scientific advice is there is not enough abundance of salmon at Greenland for a fishery,” said Neville Crabbe, a spokesman for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, which helped forge the agreement announced last month.“Any additional quota does raise some conservation concerns.”

During international talks last week in Maine, the Arctic country told the other nations’delegates it would harvest up to 30 metric tonnes of the popular sport fish - 20 tonnes under the conservation agreement, and up to 10 tonnes more for Greenlanders who are not part of the country’s fishermen’s union.

The extra take is a threat because large salmon travel to western Greenland during the winter to fatten up before swimming back to their home rivers in Canada, the United States and Europe to spawn.

Many of these rivers have seen fewer salmon over the last few decades, with some losing their once-famous runs altogether.

Last month, following a year of negotiations, the Association of Fishers and Hunters in Greenland (known as KNAPK), the federation and its European counterpart, the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, announced the Arctic nation would cut its catch by more than half, from the 45-tonne quota to 20 tonnes annually for the next dozen years.

Though terms of the financial deal were not disclosed, officials said it would likely work out to the market value of the fish being left in the water, roughly $4 million US.

One of the runs hurt by low returns is the Miramichi, historically one of New Brunswick’s most important angling rivers.

Two weeks ago, a report came out showing the number of large salmon on the Miramichi had dropped by 20 per cent and the number of grilse, or one-year-old fish, had decreased by 13 per cent in 2017 compared to the year before.

Mark Hambrook, president of the Miramichi Salmon Association, greeted the latest news like an angler whose line had just snapped.

“It’s disappointing,”he said.“But it will still be better than what we had. And keep in mind, there are a lot of things wrong other than western Greenland.”

Hambrook said the agreement meant an extra 2,000 big spawners were expected to make their way back to the Miramichi next year. But if 30 tonnes are taken, that would be reduced to about 1,300 extra.

He said they still haven’t figured out what’s happening to grilse, which don’t swim as far as Greenland.

“We don’t know why those fish are dying in the ocean,” Hambrook said “The grilse numbers are terrible, so we have other problems.”

Crabbe, meanwhile, said his organization still had faith in the deal it struck with the Greenlanders because under the agreement, penalties are built in if more than 20 tonnes are harvested.