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QC Report on Salmon Declines Reinforces Need for Government Consultation and Action

Quebec Report on Salmon Declines Reinforces Need for Government Consultation and Action

St Andrews, N.B. – WEBWIRE

The final numbers from the 2014 season for returns of wild Atlantic salmon in Quebec rivers released last week heighten the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s concern over both declining runs and increased angler harvest.  The decline in salmon populations reflects the experience on many North American rivers in 2014, which led to public outcry and a decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to set up a Ministerial Advisory Committee to consult and recommend action.  

There are many issues causing the decline in salmon runs, ranging from habitat degradation to aquaculture to overharvesting.

“Now, more than ever, we need action to help ensure the sustainability, of, not only wild Atlantic salmon populations in Quebec, but in all salmon regions in eastern Canada,” says Charles Cusson, ASF’s Director of Quebec Programs.  

The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks conducts rigorous monitoring of abundance and exploitation of wild Atlantic salmon in Quebec.   In 2014, 19,173 Atlantic salmon were counted in 36 assessed rivers.  A total of 5,013 salmon were killed by anglers, 3,670 grilse (Atlantic salmon which have spent only one winter at sea) and 1,343 large salmon.  In 2014, only 56% of the salmon caught were released, compared to 60% in 2013.  These numbers are not complete as anglers are not subject to mandatory reporting of the salmon they catch and release.  

According to the government’s recent report, overall runs of large salmon to Quebec rivers declined 49% compared with the five-year average.  Runs of grilse declined 18 % compared with the five-year average.  

“These numbers reflect that Quebec rivers are just as vulnerable as many other North American rivers which, unfortunately, did not meet their minimum conservation targets in 2014,” says Cusson. “To put this in perspective, the total number of salmon killed in 2008 roughly equals the total number of salmon that returned in 2014.”  

Of the 36 assessed rivers, only 11 met or surpassed minimum conservation targets.   A minimum conservation target is a threshold gauged after harvests by anglers and First Nations have taken place and below which biologists warn salmon runs should not fall.  In order to achieve a robust, sustainable salmon run, the number of spawning salmon must surpass this minimum conservation target.

According to the report, there are salmon populations in 109 rivers in Quebec.

QUICK FACTS regarding wild Atlantic salmon returns by region:

Baie des Chaleurs rivers – runs down 33%, compared with 5-year average:

  • Bonaventure achieved only 67% of minimum conservation target, down from 121% in 2013
  • Cascapedia achieved 249% in 2014, a drop from 378% in 2013
  • Grande Rivière only met 27% of its minimum conservation target, down from 132%

Gaspé Rivers – runs down an average of 60% compared with 5-year average:

  • York only achieved 98% of its minimum conservation target, down from 207% in 2013
  • Dartmouth only achieved 95% of its minimum conservation target, down from 219% in 2013

Quebec City area – runs down 64% when compared with 5-year average:

  • Jacques Cartier only met 12% of its minimum conservation target, even lower than the 25% reached in 2013

Saguenay area – runs down 55%, when compared with 5-year average

Rivers of the north shore suffered the largest drop of large salmon compared to the rivers of the Gaspé and Lower St-Lawrence that were under mandatory live release as of July 31, 2014:

Upper North Shore

  • De la Trinité reached only 31% of its minimum conservation target, down from 96% in 2013
  • Aux Rochers reached only 53% of its minimum conservation target, down from 103% in 2013
  • St-Jean (North Shore of St. Lawrence) only met 81% of its minimum conservation target, down from 255% in 2013

Lower North Shore – a bright spot - Old Fort River – salmon run up 86% compared with 5-year average due to a very high grilse run:

  • Old Fort reached 1673% of its minimum conservation target, a great increase from the previous year’s 388%
  • Anticosti Island – Salmon population are assessed by COSEWIC as endangered - runs down 50% compared with 5-year average


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.

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