Commercial fishing in coastal waters around Greenland and the Faroe Islands will be banned for 12 years to allow adult wild Atlantic salmon to return to rivers in Canada, the United States and Europe.
The new Greenland Salmon Conservation Agreement was struck to preserve critical feeding grounds for endangered populations in key rivers, including Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada and the Penobscot in Maine, USA.
Representatives of ASF, NASF, and the Association of Fishers and Hunters in Greenland (KNAPK) finalized the agreement on May 24th in Reykjavik, Iceland, after more than 12-months of negotiations.
The Faroe Island agreement between ASF, NASF, and the Faroese Salmon Fishing Vessel Association (Laksaskip) was signed in Reykjavik on May 22nd, continuing a decades-long suspension of commercial salmon fishing dating back to 1991.
In exchange for commercial fishermen not setting their nets and long lining, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund will financially support alternative economic development in Greenland.
“Significantly reducing the harvest of wild Atlantic salmon on their ocean feeding grounds is meaningful and decisive, not only for salmon conservation but also for global biodiversity and the health of our rivers and oceans,” said Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Alarm over declining wild salmon stocks has been increasing in recent years with both overfishing and global warming blamed.
The 12-year commercial fishing hiatus will provide relief for two entire generations of wild Atlantic salmon and reap significant benefits to boost populations, according to experts.
They estimate 11,000-plus mature salmon that would otherwise be caught in commercial nets will begin returning to their home rivers in the spring of 2019.
The size of salmon runs across North America in 2016 were down 30 to 50 percent from the year before.
Despite a stocking program since 2002, the population in the Magaguadavic had been dropping steadily since an estimate of 900 wild salmon in 1983.
Last year, no wild Atlantic salmon returned to spawn in New Brunswick’s Magaguadavic River since records began, according to the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
“The best way to save North Atlantic salmon is to stop killing them. This deal does that in meaningful numbers, said Chad Pike, chairman of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund.
“The alarming decline of the arctic indicator species provides insight into challenges being faced by both ocean and freshwater inhabitants,” he said.
A subsistence harvest by licensed recreational fishermen for personal and family consumption will continue.
The financial details of the agreement are being kept confidential, but the Atlantic Salmon Federation said no government money is involved and all funding will be raised privately through donors.
Scientific research and education projects focusing on marine conservation will receive funding to boost long-term conservation and sustainability.