Wild Atlantic salmon has long held significant social and economic importance for Atlantic Canadians, but the species has suffered a steady decline in abundance in recent years. With the December 2004 release of a draft Pacific Wild Salmon Policy for review and comment, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced that a policy framework would be developed for wild Atlantic salmon. The policy will aim to restore and sustainably manage diverse salmon populations and their habitat for future generations of Canadians. It will also help safeguard the genetic variability of the species, maintain habitat quality and ecosystem integrity, and manage an Aboriginal and recreational fishery for sustainable benefits. Decisions on the policy will be made in an open, transparent and inclusive manner, and every effort will be made to involve all parties interested in the future of the Atlantic salmon.
The federal government's wild Atlantic salmon conservation policy developed in 1986 has not recently been reviewed. At about the same time the commercial salmon fisheries in the Maritime provinces were closed and bought out. The species' strong declines in the past decade triggered supportive breeding and living gene banking efforts to prevent extirpation of several important New Brunswick and Nova Scotia populations. Resource declines in Newfoundland, Quebec and Gulf regions have also severely affected fishery opportunities in many salmon rivers.