Northern Peninsula not immune to declines in salmon


July 19, 2017

Northern Peninsula not immune to declines in salmon numbers

NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – Many anglers across the province are worried and anxious over a coming announcement on the future of salmon fishing this summer.

Stocks have been on the decline across the island, in many places to severe extents. According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) data, the Northern Peninsula is also experiencing this decline – particularly in popular fishing spots like Torrent River.

Dr. Geoff Veinott, research scientist with DFO, says this is the second year in a row a significant decline has been seen in this river.

“We compare everything to the same time last year, and only 1,100 fish have gone through the (Torrent River) fishway this year,” Veinott said. “Last year they would’ve had 1,800 fish go through by now.”

This depletion in Torrent River is being seen throughout lakes and rivers of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a surprising and unexpected phenomenon that has scientists scratching their heads to determine the cause.

“We know there is a relationship between heavy ice and the timing of salmon coming back,” Veinott said. “But it seems odd the ice would delay them and also make them disappear. It’s almost like there’s something correlating that we don’t know about.”

The Northern Peninsula is known for its reputation with fresh water fishing, with one of the strongest survival rates for salmon offspring and best producing rivers on the island. Torrent River and Western Arm Brook have a roughly six-seven per cent survival rate for young salmon, while many parts of the island are situated around three per cent.

The area of Western Arm Brook stands out from this trend and may turn out to have a normal year. Based off of the five-year average for Western Arm Brook of 679 salmon, this year has thus far documented 627. Although, it is a steep decline from last year when Western Arm Brook experienced roughly 1,100 salmon.

While the data shows a continual decline on many rivers, Veinott says they still hear anecdotal evidence from various anglers that there are both good and bad catches in areas that conflict with their data. He stresses the important for anglers to email or send their angler logs to DFO as it helps them get a more accurate picture of populations.

“It’s even more important due to the uncertainty this season,” Veinott said. “That will be critical in giving us an understanding of what’s happening with the stocks.

“The anglers play a critical role in the whole process, I don’t think they realize that enough.”

Whether the season will remain open or be converted to a catch and release operation is still yet to be determined, but a widespread announcement is expected to be released by DFO in the immediate future. Many anglers have been kept on their feet, checking in daily to determine whether or not they can still take their salmon home to fry.

“We’re really concerned because it’s so widespread,” said Veinott. “We can handle one river dropping 20 or 30 per cent, but now were seeing it all across the island.”

By Kyle Greenham
The Northern Pen