Departmental Forward Plan for Atlantic Salmon

Analysis and Strategy to Advance the Recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Atlantic Salmon


1. Habitat improvement

Recommendation 1.1: The federal government should make additional investments in habitat improvement that will increase salmon production in freshwater ecosystems. The new investment may be administered through existing administrative structures. The priority habitat initiatives would be determined at the regional level where government representatives and partners can identify priorities.

Analysis: DFO considers habitat improvement a priority. Funding is supported via the ASCF (Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund), RFCPP (Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program), and under Habitat Stewardship of the Species at Risk Program. These investments focus on stream, lake, flood plain restoration, as well as fish access improvements. DFO will seek to improve on its priority setting process, as was recently done by the ASCF to identify science as a priority for its investments.

Forward Plan: During 2016-17 DFO will undertake additional priority setting exercises to review current investments in habitat improvement. As recommended, priorities will be identified on a regional basis to determine if the current investments are sufficient to meet current program objectives or if additional new investments are required. Options may also be considered for the use of on-line technology to enhance priority setting in consultation with conservation non-governmental partners.

Recommendation 1.2 - In addition to the new investment, DFO must work with partners to explore ways to strategically utilize available funds (RFCPP, ASCF, FQSA/Hydro Quebec, Environmental damages Fund (formally HADD fund), Adopt-a-stream, provincial programs, etc.) to carry out collaborative habitat restoration work.

Analysis - DFO currently works with many non-government groups to carry out collaborative habitat restoration work. However, there may be opportunities to leverage the available funds for greater impacts, including programs such as Fisheries Protection Program and the Species at Risk Program. Some of this work has already been initiated in 2015.

Forward Plan - DFO will engage with partners to explore opportunities to better utilize available funds. This work will consider the results of the formative review of the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program during 2016-17 and will be done in conjunction with the priority setting work by engaging DFO’s partner community groups.

Recommendation 1.3 - DFO should support water conditioning projects (such as the West River initiative) where NGO groups are mitigating acid effects, and review options for treating other acid-impacted river systems. Funding arrangements should be explored with other agencies and international partners who are involved in major international ecosystem initiatives.

Analysis - Water quality is a combination of provincial and Environment Canada responsibilities. DFO does support habitat work; however, water conditioning, especially via chemical manipulation of water quality, requires very specific criteria. DFO’s RCFPP provides funding for projects related to water conditioning.

Forward Plan - The Department will analyze the results of RFCPP formative review and, if needed, implement program design changes in 2016-17, including re-setting the program priorities. In addition and on an ongoing basis, the Department will also explore partnerships with all other federal agencies or international groups to support water conditions projects.

Recommendation 1.4 - Partner with relevant provincial resource departments, industrial resource users and developers to ensure that appropriate legislation and best land use practices are in place to protect fish habitat. Ensure the legislation is enforced.

Analysis - Issues of multiple jurisdictions are often complex. Land development permits typically fall in the purview of provincial or municipal government. DFO regional staff interact with proponents and stakeholders to plan and carry out collaborative habitat restoration work, including linking proponents seeking offsetting opportunities prior to Fisheries Act authorizations. DFO also intervenes in cases where federal rules are contravened, and works with Environment Canada to ensure instruments like the Environmental Damages Fund remain accessible for restoration work.

Forward Plan - DFO regions will continue to work with their provincial counterparts to identify best practices to ensure the health of fish habitat. This will be undertaken both as an on-going activity as well as on case by case basis, and where necessary will include industry participation.

Recommendation 1.5 - DFO to work with hydro operators, Aboriginal groups and concerned NGOs to identify the water needs and water risks for salmon (flow rates, timing, temperatures, etc) so that whenever possible, hydro operators can factor these concepts into their water management plans.

Analysis - The Department actively participates and collaborates with groups such as the Water Temperature Network for Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada and Hydronet (for rivers containing hydroelectric dams), and conducts recovery potential assessments for aquatic species at risk. Furthermore, DFO has also collaborated with the Canadian Electricity Association and Canadian Hydro Power Association to inform them of federal restrictions and regulations under the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue the work that was started with Hydronet, academic institutions and other groups to review results and advice on minimum water flows, habitat requirements as well as advice contained in recovery potential assessments for salmon. This will support Hydro operations reviews of the conditions for renewal of water use permits, and management plans.

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2. Fishing mortality

Recommendation 2.1 - Harvest levels for salmon in Atlantic Canada should be set using the precautionary approach framework that is presently being developed for Atlantic salmon. The limit reference point (LRP) should be the benchmark to determine if there will be any directed retention in FSC and recreational fisheries. When the abundance of salmon is above the LRP, DFO should consult with First Nations and Aboriginal partners as well as with recreational fishery interests to define the appropriate levels and sharing of directed retention salmon fisheries. DFO should network with First Nations and Aboriginal groups as well as recreational angling interests to set appropriate daily and seasonal bag limits including consideration of grilse and large salmon retention limits in accordance with the principles of the precautionary approach and status of the stocks.

Analysis - DFO remains committed to implementing the Precautionary Approach (PA) for all fish stocks, and establishes Limit Reference points for various salmon stocks, based on scientific advice. For instance, DFO Maritimes Regions has adopted a 2.4 eggs/m2 as the LRP. Furthermore, given that all salmon populations are currently below this, there has been no recreational retention in that Region since 1998, and only limited FSC allocations. Implementation of the PA will consider scientific advice and consultations with indigenous groups and other stakeholders to establish appropriate rules.

Forward Plan - Over the next 3-5 years, the Department will work to fully implement the PA. The Gulf Region, for example, is currently planning to establish the LRP for key index rivers in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (Restigouche, Miramichi, and Margaree rivers) and to develop harvesting rules by 2017-18. Other regions are similarly working towards development of the PA framework.

Recommendation 2.2 - In Quebec, support the proposed conservation management approach which will revise the conservation limits and modify the protocol for setting recreational harvest levels. Under the new system, rivers that have not consistently met conservation limits will open to grilse only retention. Retention of large salmon on these rivers will only be introduced after in-season assessments show that the river has met spawning escapement levels.

Analysis - The Quebec situation is different from the other provinces of eastern Canada in that the administration of the fishery is done by the provincial government. The model works well in the province of Quebec and is seen to have many merits including following the principles of the Precautionary Approach. The Department remains supportive of the approaches being considered and taken by the Province of Quebec.

Forward Plan - The Department supports the objectives and operational framework of the proposed conservation management approaches being considered by the Province of Quebec, and may in the longer term borrow aspects from the Quebec approach, if supported by Aboriginal groups and stakeholders in other regions.

Recommendation 2.3 - There should be information, education materials and training provided on the benefits and proper techniques for hook and release angling. Anglers and river groups should take the lead on this with the support of DFO and provincial agencies.

Analysis - There is currently a wide-variety of sources of public information on catch and release, such as DFO’s own Anglers Guide on the web which has information on catch and release and other sources like NS’s “Learn to Fish Program” and PEI and NB’s Angling summaries with sections on “tips on releasing fish.” The Atlantic Salmon Federation also has videos and wallet size handout cards.

Forward Plan - While significant amounts of information on proper catch and release methods already exists, DFO will continue to support industry and provincial government initiatives to develop additional materials. The Department will also ensure that its new and existing materials are made available more broadly.

Recommendation 2.4 - Eliminate the three fish salmon bycatch in the Labrador resident trout net fishery. Modify the opening and closing dates and other conditions on these licences to minimize the impacts on the salmon runs. If salmon mortalities in this fishery continue to be a problem, a total ban of this trout net fishery should be imposed.

Analysis - The fishery targets charr and trout while salmon is an incidental bycatch. The current regulations allow Labrador residents a maximum bycatch of three salmon while directing for arctic charr and speckled trout for food (presently 900 tags are issued and roughly 500-600 salmon are harvested annually). Prior to the by-catch limit there was likely more salmon taken as by-catch as the food fishery stayed open longer. With the by-catch limit, all trout gear must be removed when the bycatch limit for salmon is reached.

Forward Plan - The Department will continue to rely on scientific evidence and advice and engage with Nunatsiavut Government, NunatuKavut Community Council, Innu Nation, as well as Labrador’s hunting and fishing groups to ensure the decisions are made in concert with traditional stakeholders and in the interest of conservation.

Recommendation 2.5 - Review bait fisheries in all regions to determine if they are still required by local commercial fisheries. Similarly, the Quebec commercial trout net fishery should be reviewed to see why it exists and eliminate it if there is no clear socio-economic objective to continue it.  If these net fisheries are to continue, include licence conditions related to location, timing, orientation, depth, mesh size and other factors that will minimize impacts on salmon runs.

Analysis - The regulations overseeing by-catch and trapnet fisheries limit soak times, seasons and lengths of nets. For example restrictions on using monofilament nets in herring and mackerel gill nets are in place  in some areas during times when salmon are present; groundfish gill nets must be set 5m below the surface, and DFO implements measures such as closures of areas/estuaries to reduce bycatches.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue to monitor the bycatch of salmon in bait fisheries and make needed changes based on evidence and in consultation with stakeholders. In 2016, DFO Newfoundland and Labrador Region will implement additional measures to restrict salmon bycatch: requirement that all bait nets be set parallel to the shoreline; will not permit bait nets in NAFO Div. 3KLPs from Jul 1- Aug 14; a maximum mesh size of 2 5/8 inches; and, require the return of all incidental catch immediately to the water. In 2016-17, DFO will engage with the Province of Quebec to consider impacts of the trout net fishery.

Recommendation 2.6 - When gillnets are used for FSC fisheries, they should be tended regularly and not left out for long periods of time. Explore the possibility of establishing take-out periods in the management plan – examples would be a 24 hour period every week and extended periods during times of high large fish migration, as is practiced in some Aboriginal fisheries in Labrador. Longer weekly takeout periods (72hrs) should be considered.

Analysis - Gill net takeout periods are already in place in several FSC fisheries, including expanded periods during peak run times. All FSC fisheries are licensed with seasons, locations, gears, tags, and allocations. In Lake Melville in Labrador there is a 10 day closure during the peak run of large salmon. Data supporting the changes to management measures will be required to negotiate any management decisions. Lastly, it should be noted that there are no FSC salmon gill net fisheries in DFO’s Maritimes region.

Forward Plan - Expanded takeout periods will be considered in the context of available supporting data and consultations with First Nations and Aboriginal groups in regards to conditions for FSC fisheries. As such, the Department will consider takeout periods on a case by case basis.

Recommendation 2.7 - In an effort to reduce coastal fishing in FSC fisheries, explore options to set gill nets near the entrance of salmon rivers or in bays and estuaries of salmon rivers to avoid catching migrating mixed stocks.

Analysis - Many FSC fisheries currently take place at the entrance of rivers or in bays and estuaries. Potential benefit of any changes of the status quo would require detailed analysis and supporting evidence on origin of salmon in the catches to be included in FSC licence negotiations.

Forward Plan - On a case by case basis, DFO will work with Aboriginal partners, to determine if there are areas where changes to gillnet fisheries may reduce the extent of mixed stock interceptions.

Recommendation 2.8 - Where possible, explore the use of fish traps to replace gillnets for harvesting FSC fish allocations. Work should be done by DFO, Aboriginal and other partners to find a way to make trap nets work in areas where they have been ineffective to date.

Analysis - In some FSC fisheries, such as the Miramichi, trapnets have been used and continue to be used in the FSC fisheries, and the use of trap nets was voluntarily favored by First Nations. Trap nets were tried in the past in several areas with mixed results in terms of harvesting effectiveness to meet the FSC allocation.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue to monitor and evaluate the use of trap nets, in conjunction with First Nations and Aboriginal partners to see if, on a case by case basis, trap nets are a viable option for FSC fisheries.

Recommendation 2.9 - Explore option to take small fish only in the FSC fisheries, particularly in areas where such action is needed. Potential ways to do this may include the use of fish traps, mesh sizes in gill nets and season adjustments.

Analysis - In many cases, where stocks are of concern, First Nations have voluntarily favored retention of grilse over large female salmon. In 2010 for instance, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’Kmaq Chiefs passed a resolution to not harvest salmon on rivers that do not meet conservation spawning requirements. As well, the Native Council of NS at its own request does not receive allocations for multi-sea-winter female salmon, and actively discourages it members from harvesting large salmon.

Forward Plan - The Department will continue to work in concert with Aboriginal partners to explore if there are any FSC fisheries where limiting the harvests to small salmon only will have a significant positive impact on the salmon resource, while not unduly compromising access to FSC fisheries. Should this be negotiated as part of FSC fishing licence, it could potentially include gear changes and possible season adjustments.

Recommendation 2.10 - Explore options to replace salmon with other FSC species (eg striped bass in Miramichi).

Analysis - Most FSC licences are multi-species in nature and already have allocations for striped bass. In some cases, in the Gulf Region for example, striped bass and other species allocations have been increased due to conservation concerns for Atlantic salmon.

Forward Plan - The Department will consult and work with Aboriginal partners to determine if there are FSC fisheries where options other than salmon can be considered within the existing FSC requirements.

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3. Stock enhancement

Recommendation 3.1 - Stock enhancement should be considered as an option to maintain genetic stocks or improve collapsed stocks. DFO should provide advice to protect against genetic risks, but also provide advice and support (such as monitoring impacts) when programs may have a beneficial impact.

Analysis - Numerous non-governmental groups and provinces (NB, PEI, NS) in DFO Gulf Region continue to stock juvenile salmon to support fisheries and for stock maintenance in rivers. DFO invests in live-gene banking and adult captive reared supplementation for populations of salmon listed under the Species at Risk Act, such as the Inner Bay of Fundy and for at risk populations of the southern uplands of NS and the outer Bay of Fundy. The objective is to maintain genetic diversity of severely reduced populations in anticipation of improved marine survival conditions.

Forward Plan - The DFO recently (Dec. 2015) conducted a science peer review meeting on the risks and benefits of adult captive reared supplementation, as proposed by the Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow (CAST) group in New Brunswick. The advice was published in April 2016. Going forward, the Department considers that a detailed scientific analysis of the risk to wild populations of various enhancement activities is required to support management decisions to permit such activities. Such a review may be initiated in 2016-17.

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4. Aquaculture

Recommendation 4.1 - DFO should work with provincial regulators and industry to address risks that open pen salmon culture pose to wild Atlantic salmon, particularly salmon escapement and disease/parasite transfer. Proper regulatory checks and balances should be put in place in all Atlantic jurisdictions, as noted in the Doelle-Lahey report that was recently released in Nova Scotia.

Analysis - DFO works with provincial regulators and industry. In 2014/15, an integrated research plan was initiated, via Sustainable Aquaculture Program (SAP) to focus on the impact of wild/farmed salmon genetic interactions, and to explore mitigation measures. In 2013, science advice was completed on containment practices to mitigate the impact of escaped fish. Lastly, new Aquaculture Activities Regulations (AAR) were introduced in July 2015 to minimize potential deleterious effects from deposit of drugs or pesticides and to avoid and mitigate any potential serious harm to fish and fish habitat.

Forward Plan - DFO commits to supporting management decisions via research and appropriate regulations. The research work funded from SAP will continue and steps will be taken to renew SAP funding in 2018. The first public report of AAR will be released in 2017. DFO and the provinces will report to NASCO on annual breaches of containment. Consideration will also be given to add AAR requirements for containment technology standards and escape management.

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5. Predation

Recommendation 5.1 - Increase funding levels and capacity for wild Atlantic salmon enforcement.

Analysis - Some areas in Atlantic Canada have already increased spending on salmon monitoring. For example, in 2010 Newfoundland region increased its investment in the guardian program by $376,000 to a current total of over $2 million. Further analysis is required to assess the current level of enforcement staff, conduct a risk analysis to identify priorities for the fishery, and appropriate approach to assignment of staff.

Forward Plan - Starting in 2016-17, to enhance enforcement efforts, the Department will institute interregional workshops to engage enforcement staff on Atlantic salmon issues and develop plans of action. The workshops could include impacted stakeholders. This process of priority setting workshops will be established as a biennial event for continuous reviews and adjustments.

Recommendation 5.2 - DFO should explore how to get efficiencies from enforcement dollars through collaboration with provincial agencies, enhancement of Aboriginal/Native Guardian programs or other partnerships.

Analysis - DFO has been collaborating for many years with provinces, First Nations guardian personnel and community groups. The Newfoundland and Labrador Region, for example, holds an annual inland compliance workshop with all stakeholders; Gulf and Maritimes routinely hold enforcement roundtables with industry and others to review enforcement of regulations. In all areas, Conservation and Protection staff are particularly focused on engagement with Aboriginal communities to explore ways to increase their participation and monitoring of inland salmon fisheries

Forward Plan - Over the medium term (in 2017-2018) DFO will explore options for a Newfoundland and Labrador-type guardian program for all Atlantic provinces.

Recommendation 5.3 - DFO should continue to explore the use of technology (cameras, heat sensors, etc) and risk assessment tools to improve enforcement techniques. They should also use internal knowledge and that of local partners to select the timing when enforcement activities are most needed.

Analysis - DFO is at the forefront of using technology including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, UV cameras, tracking equipment, etc. while respecting privacy considerations. Enforcement information from multiple sources is already applied to determine optimal times for enforcement and shifts of staff deployment. Some DFO partners also receive grants and contributions funding to hire monitoring staff.

Forward Plan - The Department expects to develop a procurement strategy in 2016, consistent with existing regulations and guidance for the operation of new technologies and target research into new technologies. In the medium and longer terms, specialized equipment may be purchased, and the procurement strategy modified on a biannual process review basis.

Recommendation 5.4 - DFO should recognise that the presence of partners such as Aboriginal/First Nations, anglers and river groups can be a deterrent to poachers on rivers and in estuaries. Develop networks with these groups, and establish collaborative means to detect and report poachers so that enforcement action can take place in a timely manner.

Analysis - DFO has an extensive network of partners with Aboriginal/First Nations, anglers and river groups. As well, the Conservation and Protection program is transitioning into program that is based on enforcement intelligence with a focus towards highest risks. This involves collection of information from varied data sources to conduct risk analysis on fisheries.

Forward Plan - On an on-going process, the biennial workshops could further target analysis of the Department’s engagement with partners and stakeholders to seek further opportunities to enhance partnerships at the regional level with all impacted groups.

Recommendation 5.5 - Carry out education programs, in cooperation with partners, to inform the public and user groups about the state of wild salmon stocks, how poachers pose additional risks to the resource, and the options that are available to help prevent poaching. There should be educational messages aimed at persons purchasing poached salmon.

Analysis - Currently, there are a variety of DFO public education programs in place. These range from the development of angler’s guides, school visits, and presentations, to creating and publishing media releases on enforcement results and on the impact on salmon from poaching.

Forward Plan - Working with stakeholders, over the course of 2016-17, DFO will examine options to enhance social media usage to bring increased attention on poaching and its effect on angling and tourism. Subsequently, the existing education and shared stewardship strategy for Atlantic salmon will be reviewed at the biennial workshops for future enhancements.

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6. Seals

Recommendation 6.1 - Develop a grey seal harvest in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Partner with First Nations groups to conduct a grey seal fishery. If possible, focus on targeting grey seal populations that are congregating in estuaries or river mouths when smolts are leaving the rivers or adults are returning.

Analysis - DFO’s analysis has shown that while there is evidence that seals in estuaries of the Maritime provinces eat some Atlantic salmon, past and current research has not identified salmon as a staple of their diets nor is predation deemed as a significant factor influencing the Atlantic salmon population trends.

Forward Plan - The Department will continue to monitor and review scientific evidence of the grey seal populations and their impact on salmon populations in the Eastern provinces, and develop scientific advice and management strategies accordingly.

Recommendation 6.2 - Conduct stomach content analysis on seals that are present in estuaries during salmon migration times.

Analysis - This has not been flagged as a high priority because current grey seal diet science does not justify this as a concern; nor has this been concern emerged as a high priority in the various published Recovery Potential Assessments for Atlantic salmon.

Forward Plan - Scientific evidence has not demonstrated that seals are targeting wild Atlantic salmon whether at sea, in rivers or estuaries. That said, DFO scientists will continue review the scientific literature, and if required undertake a study of diets of seals in the larger ecosystem context.

Recommendation 6.3 - Allow seal harvests/culls in other areas where they are clearly targeting wild Atlantic salmon.

Analysis - Grey seals populations have been increasing at an annual rate of about 4.5% since 2010. It was estimated that 104,000 grey seals (from all herds) forage in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence but mostly on cod, herring and other marine species. There is no scientific evidence to support a dietary preference for salmon by seals.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue to study and monitor seal populations. If there is evidence of seals targeting Atlantic salmon, then the appropriate scientific advice and resource management action plans would be developed, if needed.

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7. Striped bass

Recommendation 7.1 - Support expanded research programs on striped bass to get a better understanding of the impacts this species is having on wild Atlantic salmon (surveys in Miramichi Bay and Bay of Chaleur, Bay of Fundy smolt tagging work).

Analysis - Analysis of salmon returns and the abundance to striped bass in southern Gulf since 1994 do not show a strong link between increase in bass and decrease in salmon. Nonetheless, DFO is currently undertaking an extensive three-year project to evaluate the impacts of striped bass on wild Atlantic salmon in the Miramichi including diet studies. As well, tracking studies with acoustic telemetry of salmon smolts and striped bass to define the extent of overlap and potential interactions are ongoing.

Forward Plan - The three-year field component of Miramichi striped bass diet study was completed in 2015. Analyses of the results of the study are currently underway. This information will be used to inform on subsequent management actions as needed.

Recommendation 7.2 - Consult with local First Nations bands in the Miramichi area to explore the establishment of striped bass food fisheries that may replace some of the FSC salmon catch.

Analysis - This recommendation is very similar to recommendation 2.10. FSC licences are for multi-species including allocations for striped bass, and in some cases striped bass allocations have been increased.

Forward Plan - DFO will consult and work with Aboriginal partners to continue exploring possibilities where options for FSC fish other than salmon can accommodate the FSC requirements.

Recommendation 7.3 - Since striped bass population levels in the Northumberland Strait are well above conservation targets, DFO should allow an increased harvest through angling or other methods (from the Cheticamp area in Western Cape Breton through to the Gaspe Peninsula). Required spawning levels must be respected to ensure the striped bass population does not approach threatened levels, as occurred in the past.

Analysis - The Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations are a good tool to allow for changes to bag limits, angling seasons etc. However, in this case the Precautionary Framework is more appropriate to provide harvest decisions and management measures to address the levels of allowable harvest for striped bass.

Forward Plan - In 2016, the Department will begin the process to develop the Precautionary Approach framework for the management of the native Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence striped bass population.

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8. Sea birds

Recommendation 8.1 - Support and expand the research on the impacts of seabird populations on salmon.

Analysis - Seabird colonies tend to be localized, which limits the scale of impact and constrains the scope for academic research. Previous studies have documented Atlantic salmon in diets of gannets in Funk Island but there is paucity of observation of salmon in diets of other seabirds. Cormorants and gulls have been implicated in predation of smolts in estuaries. That said, indices of salmon in diet may be obtained by genetic analysis of seabird scats and recovery of tags, including electronic tags, from seabird colonies in key estuaries.

Forward Plan - Seabird predation is often limited to the early time period of salmon at sea as no seabirds are physically able to consume Atlantic salmon beyond the post-smolt stage and after the first summer at sea. DFO does not plan to undertake scientific studies on this topic. However, literature  will be reviewed regularly to evaluate if specific research is required.

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9. Smallmouth bass

Recommendation 9.1 - For 2015, continue with the small mouth bass eradication program in Miramichi Lake. For 2016, explore other options such as chemical eradication under the authority of the new Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations.

Analysis - The new Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations are now in force. A review of the threats and risks to salmon from small mouth bass in Miramichi Lake has been published. Since 2009, DFO has conducted various small mouth bass control measures in Miramichi Lake, which have had some success in suppressing the small mouth bass population. Annual data reports are available on bass removed.

Forward Plan - The Department will assess the efficacy of the small mouth bass containment program on a regular and on-going basis and will adjust its efforts accordingly.

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10. Stock assessment

Recommendation 10.1 - Secure long-term funding for existing locations and increase the number of locations where counting takes place. Target/priority areas include the South Coast of Newfoundland; additional rivers in Northern Labrador, far north and Kenamu River in Lake Melville; an additional river in Southern Labrador, the Eagle River is suggested; an additional river on Anticosti; and an additional river on the Saint Lawrence North Shore, east of Moisie River.

Analysis - Additional monitoring would be beneficial, particularly where there are limited monitoring facilities. However, there are over 1,000 salmon rivers in eastern Canada, and it is not feasible to conduct quantitative assessment in all the rivers. As such, several index rivers have currently been established to monitor trends, which allow for inferring status of other rivers. In 2015, two new adult salmon counting facilities were initiated on the South Coast of Newfoundland.

Forward Plan - In 2016, DFO NL will conduct a smolt count at one of the new counting facilities and support stewardship groups in monitoring activities (recent examples include: Salmon Brook, upper Terra Nova River, Corner Brook Stream, Rattling Brook). If scientifically necessary, the feasibility of identifying additional index rivers and implementing new monitoring programs will be considered in partnerships with indigenous groups and other stakeholders.

Recommendation 10.2 - Do a review of the options that are available for doing counts and stock assessment to evaluate which are most cost effective, which are appropriate for science needs, and which may work best in given climates and circumstances (counting fences, swim through, smolt wheels, new technologies to do electronic counting, etc.).

Analysis - DFO currently uses a variety of methods to monitor salmon and continually evaluates other cost effective methods and new technologies. Each method is evaluated for its effectiveness and options are evaluated prior to implementation. There is no single approach that can be used in all rivers. There are over 1,000 rivers in Eastern Canada with salmon runs, majority of them are small to medium sized in watershed area (< 2,000 km²). In most countries salmon are assessed using partial count techniques or indices in particular angling catches with exploitation rates.

Forward Plan - The Department will continue with its current practices to review the options and tools for stock assessment, and make changes as necessary in consultation with stakeholders and based on scientific needs and evidence.

Recommendation 10.3 - Do a review of the approaches used to determine egg requirements for river systems so that consistent principles, most appropriate methodologies, and realistic numbers can be used for minimum spawning requirements. (Note: this work may be underway with the PA approach for Atlantic Canada and the developing 2016 management plan for Quebec).

Analysis - Conservation requirements have been used to guide management decisions since the early 1990s. Conservation requirements are considered equivalent to Limit Reference Points. In 2014 the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) held its Reference Points meeting. The advisory report and supporting documents of this meeting are available on the CSAS website.

Forward Plan - In 2016-17, DFO will work to further implement the PA framework. The Gulf region in particular is working to implement the outcomes of the 2014 CSAS meeting on Reference Points. The development of the PA framework, that includes reference points and harvest decision rules, requires discussion and consultations with resource users in each region, which DFO will undertake beginning in 2016-17.

Recommendation 10.4 - As DFO implements the precautionary approach, science and management should develop the tradeoffs and implications associated with different harvest levels when the stock is in the cautious and healthy zones.

Analysis -This principle of evaluating tradeoffs and implications is the context of harvest decision rules within the PA framework. This requires discussions among sectors including science, management, as well as in consultation with users and Indigenous peoples.

Forward Plan - Implementation of the PA framework in the various areas, which will begin in 2016-2017, includes the establishment of harvest decision rules that would guide exploitation rates and harvest levels when the stocks are in the cautious and healthy zones.

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11. Data

Recommendation 11.1 - Work with provincial partners in NS, NB and NL to improve the licence return rates from the recreational fisheries. Collaborate on the development of a user-friendly electronic on-line reporting system that would be available for reporting on a daily basis. Establish a deterrent or incentive process/program to encourage reporting – there must be some consequences for not reporting.

Analysis - Some provinces have already instituted procedures to increase the returns of report cards from the recreational fishery. For instance in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland, post-season reminder letters and telephone surveys are used to increase returns. And some groups, especially in the Pacific region, are investigating the use of “fisher app” smartphone applications.

Forward Plan - DFO will implement this recommendation by engaging provincial governments to continue exploring the use of innovative techniques to improve the return rates of licence report cards and data capture in general for all salmon fisheries.

Recommendation 11.2 - Work with Aboriginal groups to obtain good data and to better use the information that they are collecting or can collect from their subsistence fisheries.

Analysis - Data capture is a broad issue that needs to be enhanced for all fisheries. DFO regularly communicates and works with Aboriginal partners and groups to enhance data capture and reporting.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue its efforts during 2016-17 and in subsequent years the Department will examine ways to enhance data capture, not only for subsistence but for all salmon fisheries.

Recommendation 11.3 - Work with anglers, professional guides, fishing camps, river groups, or others who are regularly on the rivers and in the estuaries, to collect any data that may help in pursuing science needs.

Analysis - Data capture is a concern in the Department and recreational fisheries data is critical as it is a partial indicator of salmon abundance in the rivers, but it must be calibrated to data using target studies. Recreational data is used to assess abundance of salmon in the Margaree (NB), Restigouche (NB), and several rivers on Cape Breton Island, NS and in Newfoundland.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue with its efforts, including exploring better methods for incentives (eg: giveaway fish flies) as well as technological tools to enhance data capture. DFO will work with fishing camps in Labrador in order to obtain scale samples, DNA and biological characteristics data for the recreational fishery. These efforts will continue to be complemented by targeted science studies.

Recommendation 11.4 - Foster data sharing among DFO, the scientific community and other partners/user groups.

Analysis - Data sharing is of value and is already part of DFO’s regular practices. Assessments and science advice are published on the CSAS internet site, and DFO provides analysis support for data collected by various groups.

Forward Plan - The current practices of data sharing will continue, as will the practice of collaborations with university researchers, which frequently include sharing of data in support of the work of graduate students and post-doctorate researchers.

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12. Partnerships

Recommendation 12.1 - DFO should support and encourage their scientists to work collaboratively with university researchers, NGOs, private researchers or local interest groups in an effort to collect information and pursue scientific knowledge on Atlantic salmon. DFO/the federal government should establish a Wild Atlantic Salmon Research and Innovation Fund to support this initiative.

Analysis - DFO encourages its scientists to work with university researchers by supporting graduate students, as well as through the CSAS network, and other forums such as the Water Temperature Network for Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada; Hydronet (for freshwater salmonid productivity in rivers containing hydroelectric dams); etc. Additional resources for science work include Strategic Program for Ecosystem-based Research and Advice (SPERA); International Governance Strategy Program (IGS); Genome R&D Initiative (GRDI); Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP).

Forward Plan - The Department will consider options to support research and innovation with regards to wild Atlantic salmon in 2016-17, in the context of existing programs, scientific needs of the scientific community and stakeholders. DFO will propose to form an Atlantic Salmon Research Joint Venture to advance the science, research and knowledge of Atlantic salmon. The Joint Venture will include science-based organizations to bring a cohesive effort in North America to identify and study the most urgent problems in salmon biology to provide knowledge to inform conservation and management efforts.

Recommendation 12.2 - DFO should work with The Atlantic Salmon Federation and international scientists to address low marine survival and salmon migration patterns. There should be support for and collaboration with Greenland to do genetics and tagging work to gain a better understanding of the populations, migration, mortality estimates and relationships between the west Greenland fishery and river spawning populations.

Analysis - Work on this topic is extremely important and has been ongoing for several decades. DFO is involved with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Org. NASCO and led the SALSEA (Salmon at Sea) initiative from2008 to 2011. DFO and the Province of Quebec contribute staff and expenses to the international sampling program of the salmon fishery in Greenland. DFO’s NL region coordinates scale sample ageing of samples from Greenland and with Maritimes region, has undertaken genetic analysis of Greenland samples, and samples from France/SPM fishery to identify the origin of salmon. DFO is also involved in European Union led initiatives, and provides facilities in support of the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s smolt tracking program.

Forward Plan - The Department will continue its work in this area, including collaboration on scientific research, such as the two papers in 2015 on the composition of mixed stock fisheries (Labrador and France/SPM) and genetic estimates. Genetic analyses of Labrador, West Greenland and St. Pierre et Miquelon will continue in 2016, and papers are expected on genetic analysis of mixed stock Atlantic salmon fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic, with another in review: “genetic mixed stock analysis disentangles spatial and temporal variation on the composition of the West Greenland Atlantic salmon fishery.”

Recommendation 12.3 - DFO should provide training to local aboriginal, river groups or school groups (or arrange for training programs) so these groups can assist in doing science work such as stock assessments, data collection, water quality sampling, etc.

Analysis - DFO actively provides training to a variety of Aboriginal and local stakeholder groups to improve data collection and other activities. This has been done using web based information, support of local workshops, as well through staff seminars and workshops in each of the Department’s regions.

Forward Plan - The Department will continue with this ongoing activity. Aboriginal groups in many areas are involved in monitoring programs under direct or indirect oversight of DFO staff. DFO will continue to share best practices, sampling protocols and other techniques with river groups and other partners.

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13. Ocean research, ocean tracking

Recommendation 13.1 - Work with national and international partners to research the larger ecosystem changes that are occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, including the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Identify salmon as a keystone species to study as part of this research.

Analysis - DFO Science is involved in a number of cross-disciplinary programs to study marine ecosystems (for example the Atlantic Zonal Monitoring Program). Additional collaborative investigations have taken place with researchers from the University of Waterloo examining trophic (feeding) ecology of Northwest Atlantic salmon, and study of the range of marine temperatures used by salmon along west Greenland.

Forward Plan - DFO continues to direct a number of cross-disciplinary ecosystem monitoring programs. There are a number of studies assessing ecosystem change for a variety of species, including Atlantic salmon.

Recommendation 13.2 - Support and expand ocean tracking programs to help understand the marine components of Atlantic salmon – either through direct DFO involvement or partnerships. Programs could include smolt tagging, adult tagging in remote areas (Greenland) or increased monitoring sites/activities. Results of this important work should be peer reviewed and published.

Analysis - The Department is a partner of the Ocean Tracking Network and is involved in a number of salmon tracking programs, especially in some key rivers in the Gulf, Quebec, and NL Regions.

Forward Plan - In 2016-17, DFO will continue to collaborate with the Ocean Tracking Network and others, and review the requirements for ongoing research on the topic of ocean tracking. The Department’s current approach to supplement existing research efforts can be adjusted, if necessary.

Recommendation 13.3 - Support genetics work that would supplement the tagging and migration studies.

Analysis - In addition to academic research on genetic differentiation of wild Atlantic Salmon, DFO has identified, as part of an integrated research plan focused on wild/farmed Atlantic salmon genetic interactions, knowledge gaps key to further understand the scope and effect of these interactions. DFO research is on-going using genetic tools to characterize the extent of introgression, and variability of wild Atlantic salmon stocks. This and other complementary research will complement the results from tagging and migration studies.

Forward Plan - In 2016-17, DFO will continue with the Genome R&D Initiative (GRDI) and aquaculture regulatory science projects to develop the genomic baseline and provide more rapid analysis. Research on genetic tools is ongoing and will be used to complement results of various tagging and migration studies, as a priority under the Salmon Aquaculture program.

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14. Water quality

Recommendation 14.1 - Support existing water monitoring programs and expand on them to establish time series data on water throughout salmon river systems.

Analysis - DFO monitors water temperatures at all of the salmon monitoring facilities; and DFO participates in the Water Temperature Network for Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada to create a database of all freshwater temperatures. DFO also participates in instream flow work with various partner agencies.

Forward Plan - DFO will maintain its water temperature, water level, and meteorological stations in Atlantic Canada, and partners with other departments such as Environment Canada to monitor water quality indicators at the various designated sites.

Recommendation 14.2 - Use partnerships with river groups, universities, local schools or local community groups to collect fresh water samples and data. DFO should provide training and necessary support.

Analysis - Other than water temperature, DFO does not normally conduct water quality monitoring as it is not generally seen to have significant long term impacts on salmon populations. Water quality tests are undertaken by Provinces or even municipalities, and, typically in the case of federal jurisdiction, are undertaken by Environment Canada.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue to work with local and provincial governments and Environment Canada to advance current practises of focusing on monitoring river temperatures as a gauge of impacts on salmon populations.

Recommendation 14.3 - Use technology such as remote sensing to map rivers and identify temperature patterns in rivers.

Analysis - DFO does not currently use remote sensing to map rivers or identify temperature patterns. It could be used in a focused capacity to map limited coldwater refugia and assist in the evaluation and advice on land use activities such as forestry. Non-governmental groups and universities have received funding to map water temperatures using aerial infrared photography, which is considered the best approach in watershed management planning.

Forward Plan - DFO appreciates the work of universities and non-governmental groups to use aerial infrared photography as a tool in watershed management and planning.

Recommendation 14.4 - DFO should work with research partners to study the impacts that changes in water quality, such as increased aluminum levels in acid rivers, are having on different life stages of Atlantic salmon. Likewise, partnership research programs are needed to better understand hydrology, particularly related to climate change and impacts on freshwater habitat.

Analysis - From a scientific basis, aluminum levels and acidity are a localized issue for salmon. However, DFO has scientists with expertise in modelling and monitoring water temperatures and water flows, and the Department maintains close collaborations with several universities in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue to analyze, assess and use the provision of science advice on flow considerations and water temperature thresholds as well as the various triggers to effectively manage Atlantic salmon fisheries and inform on habitat related mitigation and recovery.

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15. Aquaculture interactions

Recommendation 15.1 - Work with provincial partners and the aquaculture industry to do genetics work in river systems adjacent to aquaculture farms to determine the presence and impacts of escaped fish on local wild stocks.

Analysis - An integrated research plan through the Aquaculture Regulatory Science element of SAP II (2013-2018) has been developed to understand the extent of genetic interactions and if they pose a conservation risk. Research is ongoing to identify appropriate genetic markers for use to identify escaped fish; other research is underway to investigate the presence of escaped or potentially hybrid salmon in rivers where aquaculture is occurring.

Forward Plan - This recommendation is being partially addressed by the aquaculture science research on characterizing the extent of interbreeding between escaped and local wild stocks. It is considered an ongoing as well as a long-term priority under the SAP program.

Recommendation 15.2 - Aquaculture fish should be marked so that escapees may be identifiable, genetically traceable and removed from river systems. There should be consequences to the aquaculture industry for not accurately reporting escapees in a timely manner.

Analysis - Aquaculture is a shared responsibility between provinces, acts, regulations and other tools which are used to issue and administer leases of sites, licences, permits, codes of practice, and to regulate waste management, fish health and fish escapes. Regulators are continuously improving these tools.

Forward Plan - The Department will report annually to NASCO on breaches of containment. The next NASCO reporting will be in June 2016. In the future, consideration will be given to add regulatory requirements under the AAR for containment management technology standards and escape management.

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Recommendation 16.1 - Continue to work with NASCO, Greenland, Denmark and other partners to reduce the harvest and effectively manage the salmon fishery located off western Greenland.

Analysis - A new regulatory measure for the West Greenland Atlantic salmon fishery was developed at the 2015 NASCO Annual meeting. Greenland unilaterally proposed a catch limit of 45 t for 2015-17 and to put in place appropriate monitoring, control and surveillance measures. In July 2015, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans expressed concern to Greenland about the 45t quota but support for newer and stricter measures.

Forward Plan - Canada will continue to engage Greenland bilaterally and through NASCO to ensure the new measures are instituted and press Greenland to reduce harvest levels in the interest of sustainability, and offer assistance in forums such as the North Atlantic Fisheries Ministers Conference.

Recommendation 16.2 - Work with NASCO, France and other partners to reduce and eventually eliminate the salmon net fishery conducted off Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The first target should be the elimination of the commercial fishery.

Analysis - Canada and other parties to NASCO continue to press France/SPM to join NASCO and to reduce their overall harvest, starting with the commercial harvest. At the 2015 NASCO annual meeting, France/SPM indicated the French government is open to join NASCO, but requires consultations before committing.

Forward Plan - Canada will continue to engage with France to press on reducing catch and eliminating the commercial fishery, including actions such as when Canada invited France in 2015, expressing a strong desire to see France/SPM accede to NASCO.

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Other considerations

Recommendation 17.1 - Change to a two year management cycle in NF. Maintain the option to implement immediate changes for major management or conservation issues. In other regions in Atlantic Canada, once an appropriate management regime is in place for a foreseeable period, the consultations can change to a two year cycle.

Analysis - The current schedule for management cycles reflects the goals of stability and a cautious approach. Despite multi-year (5 year) management plans for NL stocks, which are designed to promote stability in planning, there are at least two salmon workshops annually in NL. Similarly in other regions, assessments and consultations have been maintained on an annual cycle.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue to evaluate the annual and multi-year approaches to the management of stocks on a case by case and province by province basis through annual and if required more frequent, workshops and consultations.

Recommendation 17.2 - DFO should work with the provinces and NGOs to streamline the permitting and approval process for volunteers who are doing constructive work on salmon stocks or salmon habitat.

Analysis - Currently, approvals range from a 1 day turnaround to two-weeks, depending on the nature of the request and its urgency , along with MOUs put in place with various provincial governments.

Forward Plan - Over the course of 2016-17, DFO will further examine the measures in place and, where necessary, streamline the permitting and approvals process. DFO will also streamline administration of the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program in 2016-17 for funding of restoration projects.

Recommendation 17.3 - DFO should work with representative interest groups to identify contact people (and coordinates) who can be accessed to get the various federal and provincial approvals or funding to do salmon-related work.

Analysis - Virtually all of the necessary information is presently available on the DFO website and various other online resources, such as the Department’s Recreational Fisheries webpage, “Apply for Funding” site, and “Our Atlantic Salmon Story,” to name just a few of the on-line resources and contact information.

Forward Plan - The Department will examine the current online content and information in the course of 2016-17, and if needed in consultation with stakeholders, additional links will be added.

Recommendation 17.4 - Give a one year advance notice about management changes that will be introduced so that businesses can adjust and plan as necessary.

Analysis - Stability and predictability are the reasons for DFO taking the multi-year approach for management measures. Some circumstances, however, require late decisions, which do not allow for a full year advance notice.

Forward Plan - From 2016 onwards, DFO will continue to strive to give as much advance notice as possible (the target will be at a minimum one-year in advance).

Recommendation 17.5 - The federal government/DFO and Quebec should address the governance process so that the provinces will have the authority to quickly make management changes needed for conservation.

Analysis - This is an important issue to ensure that rivers that traverse both the provinces have uniform management approaches and that changes are done in a timely and consistent manner.

Forward Plan - The Department has already initiated discussion to further strengthen co-ordination of governance issues with Quebec. This will continue in 2016.

Recommendation 17.6 - Governments must promptly address the harmonization of management approaches in the river systems on the border of NB and Quebec. Establish a process to immediately deal with this situation when future management changes are made.

Analysis - A process already exists to review and discuss harmonization of water systems that border the jurisdictions of NB and Quebec. Quebec has delegated authority over management of Atlantic salmon on waters that border the province, while DFO has the rest.

Forward Plan - Steps were taken in 2015 to strengthen the coordination of NB and Quebec rivers with respect to salmon. This process will continue over the longer-term.

Recommendation 17.7 - A review of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Policy is overdue. It should be reviewed considering recommendations in this report and the new policy should be implemented. The federal government and the province of Quebec should collaborate and attempt to implement their respective salmon policies within the same time frame.

Analysis - DFO initially had plans to review the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy in conjunction with the Atlantic Salmon Advisory Committee. However it was advised that the review be delayed until after the Ministerial Committee’s report, as the report may inform and provide input to the review.

Forward Plan - In 2016, DFO will initiate a complete review of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy in partnership with the Atlantic Salmon Advisory Committee.

Recommendation 17.8 - Review the unscheduled salmon rivers in NL to determine whether some should be listed as scheduled waters.

Analysis - Review of unscheduled rivers in NL has been identified as an important step forward. The review requires exhaustive analysis.

Forward Plan - The Department will start a review of NL’s unscheduled rivers in 2016-17 to determine if some should be listed as scheduled.

Recommendation 17.9 - Review the status of closed rivers in the Maritimes, in consultation with First Nations partners and interest groups, and assess the possibility of reopening. Similar reviews may be considered for NL and Quebec.

Analysis - Closures are normally introduced, on a case by case basis, as required to protect and conserve salmon and are undertaken in consultations with Indigenous groups and other stakeholders. This remains an ongoing process.

Forward Plan - DFO will continue to work with Aboriginal partners and stakeholders and based on stock status and scientific advice, determine the most appropriate management measures for impacted rivers.

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