Canada's Policy for Conservation of Wild Atlantic Salmon

Fisheries & Oceans Canada
August 2009

THE WILD ATLANTIC SALMON CONSERVATION POLICY – A SNAPSHOT

  • The Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy is intended to transform the approach to conserving Atlantic salmon, their habitat, and dependent ecosystems. Key elements of the policy recognize that:
  1. Protection of the genetic and geographic diversity of salmon is necessary for their future evolutionary adaptation and long-term well-being.
  2. Shared stewardship in conjunction with carrying out mandated responsibilities provides the most efficient and effective use of resources to achieve conservation objectives. Resource management decision making has to be shared and undertaken using open and accountable public processes that are collaborative, inclusive and comprehensive.
  3. Future success in salmon conservation relies on use of freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats; the policy needs to address challenges in all three habitats. Habitat requires effective protection and rehabilitation if salmon are to prosper. Such actions require partnered approaches with provinces and others.
  4. Ecosystems must be considered in management decision making to foster the conservation of salmon in an increasingly uncertain future.
  5. Management must be based on good scientific information and consider biological, social, and economic consequences.
  • The goal of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy is to maintain and restore healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitats for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Canada in perpetuity.
  • This goal will be guided by four principles:
    • Conservation. Conservation of wild Atlantic salmon, their genetic diversity and their habitats is the highest priority in resource management decision making.
    • Sustainable Use and Benefits. Resource management decisions will consider biological, social, and economic consequences; reflect best science including Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and local knowledge, and maintain the potential for future generations to meet their needs and aspirations.
    • Open and Transparent Decision Making. Resource management decisions will be made in an open, transparent and inclusive manner.
    • Shared Stewardship. Conservation initiatives will be optimised by actively engaging provincial governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and other stakeholders in the development, implementation, promotion, maintenance of, and compliance with management decisions, and by the sharing of responsibility and accountability for the outcome of such decisions. Nevertheless, DFO will maintain its legislative authority towards the conservation of Atlantic salmon and its habitat.
  • Wild salmon will be conserved by managing populations in "Salmon Management Areas" (SMAs ).
  • The status of SMAs will be evaluated through monitoring programs in index rivers and assessed against selected benchmarks, and reported publicly.
  • Habitat protection and management for wild Atlantic salmon will focus on an integrated approach involving assessment of habitat condition, identification of indicators and benchmarks, and monitoring of status.
  • Ecosystem considerations will be incorporated into salmon management, particularly in relation to marine survival.
  • The policy aims to maintain and improve Atlantic salmon diversity through the protection of SMA populations but recognizes there will be exceptional circumstances where it is neither feasible nor reasonable to fully address all risks. Where an assessment concludes that conservation measures will be ineffective or the social or economic costs to rebuild a population(s) within an SMA would be unacceptably high, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans may decide to limit the range of measures taken.

INTRODUCTION

What are Wild Atlantic Salmon?

The Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy addresses the anadromous (sea-run) form of (Salmo salar L.). The landlocked form of S. salar, variously known as landlocked, ouananiche or Sebago salmon, is omitted in large part from this policy because its management has been divested to the provinces. The sea-run form frequents coastal rivers and streams of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and in Québec, Ungava and the North and South shores of the St. Lawrence River.[1]

Salmon are considered “wild” if they have spent their entire life cycle in the wild and originate from parents that were also produced by natural spawning and continuously lived in the wild. In situations where Atlantic Salmon stocks are being recovered through a live gene banking process (protection of genetic diversity) to reestablish populations, that are listed or at risk of extirpation, the progeny of these facilities are considered “wild” salmon.

[1] Wild Atlantic salmon re-introduced into rivers and streams of Lake Ontario are considered landlocked and are not included in this policy.

In “The Atlantic salmon in the history of North America”, R.W. Dunfield Footnote1 summarized that for a thousand years the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) has occupied a salient position in the history of eastern North America. Originally a food source for Aboriginal people, it became “an increasingly important factor in both the domestic and commercial life of the developing colonies” where it “provided a recreational outlet for sportsmen and evolved as a principal object of intellectual and scientific investigations”. Dunfield noted that the “documented specifics of the salmon’s history, however, are largely comprised of repetitive instances of overexploitation, careless destruction of stocks and their environment, ineffective conservation actions”, and more recently, “a declining presence”. He concluded that its destiny appears to be extinction.

Since the inauguration of the last policy for Atlantic salmonFootnote2 in 1986, Department efforts to arrest the decline have been persistent, expensive, and consistently challenged by new or emerging threats to their survival. Efforts to arrest the down turn have included the termination of all commercial fisheries, reduction and in some areas suspension of recreational salmon fishing, new legislation for fish passage and habitat protection, improved scientific advice to regulate and close fisheries, and supplementation of stocks through fish culture practices. New challenges are associated with Supreme Court decisions, poor marine survival, extirpation of populations, habitat degradation and loss, reviews of government program priorities and activities, international agreements and new Canadian legislation governing species at riskFootnote3 and, in some areas, poor compliance with management measures. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has always adapted to changing circumstances and its priorities will continue to be reshaped to address these contemporary challenges and secure a turn around in the fate of Canada’s wild Atlantic salmon.

This “Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy” represents Canada’s commitment and planned course of action for the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon. As such, the policy will provide guidance for the development of a strategic and integrated implementation plan to address current challenges. The policy is in keeping with a mandate to develop a common vision for the future management of wild Atlantic salmon, a governance model for fisheries management with modernized policy frameworks, a policy that parallels Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon,Footnote4 and a commitment of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture MinistersFootnote5 to improve stewardship of fish and fish habitat. For continuing relevancy in rapidly changing conditions, the policy should be reviewed at five year intervals.

Wild Atlantic Salmon – A Renewed Management Approach

What is the status of wild Atlantic salmon and what has been done about it?

Figure-1

Between 1971 and 1985, the estimated abundance of North American, essentially Canadian, Atlantic salmon at one sea winter (1SW) of age fluctuated between 0.8 - 1.7 million fish annually (Fig.1). Between 1995 and 2006, the estimated abundance declined to about 0.4 - 0.7 million fish. The largest decline occurred in the age component destined to return to Canadian rivers as two-sea-winter (2SW) salmon.Footnote6 As a result, the largest changes in status have been observed in the rivers from the southern portion of the species range as well as in the multi-sea-winter salmon stocks of Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador rivers adjacent to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Relative spawner abundances for the DFO Newfoundland (and Labrador), Gulf and maritime regions as well as the Province of Quebec for the period 1998-2007 are shown in Figure 2Footnote7.

When pronounced declines in abundance were observed in the 1980’s, a wide range of management measures were introduced for conservation purposes.Footnote7 The closures of commercial fisheries which began in 1972 in strategic intercepting and terminal fisheries were expanded in 1984 to include all the commercial fisheries of the Maritime Provinces and portions of Québec. Also in 1984, mandatory catch and release in the recreational fisheries of all large salmon was introduced in the Maritime Provinces and insular Newfoundland. These measures had the effect of increasing spawning escapements to most rivers of the Maritimes with subsequent responses in juvenile production. In contrast, overall escapements to Newfoundland were not consistent with ‘plan’ expectations. The failure of most stocks to rebuild in subsequent years to anticipated levels following the management measures of 1984 resulted in further reductions and eventually moratoria on commercial salmon fisheries in 1992 for insular Newfoundland, 1998 for Labrador and 2000 for all commercial fisheries in eastern Canada. Since then, more restrictive management measures have been introduced in an attempt to compensate for declining marine survival and salmon abundance, including reduced daily and season bag limits, mandatory catch and release of large and in some cases all sizes of salmon, and in large portions of the Maritimes the total closure of the recreational fisheries. Several Aboriginal community fisheries have been reduced and, in some cases, voluntarily suspended.

Figure 2. Median numbers of spawners (1,000’s), 1998-2007 (‘Gulf’ is SMA’s 15-18 and ‘Maritimes’ is SMA’s 19-23 per Figure 4.)

Figure-2

The most severe declines in abundance have been reported in the 32 rivers of the inner Bay of Fundy where Atlantic salmon have been designated as “endangered” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and listed under Canada’s Species at Risk ActFootnote3 (SARA). Numerous rivers in the Southern Upland of the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia are either threatened with extirpation or already have been extirpated.

Counts of smolts and returning adult salmon over the last several decades at about a dozen facilities in Atlantic Canada provide indices of natural survival at sea. Such index values remain variable and inconsistent but indicate that survival of populations to home waters has not increased as expected as a result of the closure of terminal and most sea fisheries.

The causes of the decline in abundance of Atlantic salmon have stimulated two intensive reviews by DFO, one following the exceptional low return of salmon in 1997Footnote8 and a second workshopFootnote9 at Dalhousie University in June 2000. The latter identified 62 possible factors and research initiatives which could lead to a better understanding of the factors and possible interventions to arrest the decline in Atlantic salmon. Despite these reviews, the factors contributing directly to reduced marine survival of Atlantic salmon remain largely unknown, while the factors in fresh water that have constrained productivity are much better understood – acid rain in the Southern Upland rivers of Nova Scotia and poaching in marine and freshwaters of Newfoundland and Labrador).

Who values salmon?

Wild Atlantic salmon are an important heritage of Atlantic Canada and Québec. They are an indicator of environmental quality, an object of respect, a target of eco-tourism and have a value that goes beyond the social and economic values associated with salmon fisheries. Streamlined, silver and graceful, whether swimming up or down river or jumping waterfalls, the Atlantic salmon has generated a rich cultural heritage based largely on the mystique of the fish itself. Eco-tourism is gaining momentum as people just want to catch a glimpse of this symbol of healthy river systems

Atlantic salmon are fished for food, social, and ceremonial purposes by more than 40 First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations in Atlantic Canada and Québec. For both coastal and inland Aboriginal people, salmon have been and continue to be important culturally as a food source. Working with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations is an essential part of salmon management and restoration.

Of course, Atlantic salmon has been of considerable importance to all Canadians living in Atlantic Canada and Québec. Prior to the 1980’s, this heritage was perhaps more focused on commercial salmon fisheries (although subsistence uses were common and important throughout the region from the time of their arrival). However, with the recent downturns in abundance of some stocks, the focus now is more on community level conservation as well as on the related high value recreational fisheries and the socio-economic opportunities they provide. The growing acceptance of catch-and-release fisheries has also permitted the co-existence of both a fishery and maximization of escapements. The recreational fishing industry for wild Atlantic salmon in Atlantic Canada and Québec contributes over $56 million in attributable expenditures to local and provincial economies annually.

Why a new approach to Atlantic salmon management and how?

DFO resources directed towards wild Atlantic salmon

In the fiscal year 2004-05, DFO expended more than $12M; this is less than one-half the expenditures in 1984-85. Similar reductions have occurred on other important Atlantic fish species which continue to support commercial fisheries. Some of these reductions have been redirected to a large suite of new priorities.

There have been calls for the federal government to take urgent action to help arrest the dramatic overall decline and to rebuild wild Atlantic salmon populations. There has been an increasing awareness that the importance of genetic diversity had not been adequately addressed in past management of salmon fisheries and its habitat. A new approach to managing salmon production and diversity is needed to conserve salmon and protect and restore the full array of benefits they provide to Canadians.

The new approach envisages more efficient and effective use of internal and external resources already available to achieve conservation objectives for wild Atlantic salmon. This is an approach that recognizes that DFO alone cannot address all of the challenges facing wild Atlantic salmon. The Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy, therefore, needs to set the stage for all internal and external parties to more effectively contribute to conservation objectives through shared stewardship.

Shared stewardship involves DFO actively collaborating externally with Provincial governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, volunteers, other stakeholders and other federal agencies to conserve and restore salmon and salmon habitat. In addition, leadership by DFO in international salmon conservation fora will play a key role in identifying and addressing conservation issues in the marine environment.

The impetus for a new management approach also comes from the evolution in public attitudes, science, laws, and decision making over the past 20 years. Thousands of volunteers and many local watershed groups now actively protect and restore Atlantic salmon and habitat. Indeed, it is clear that Atlantic salmon has benefited greatly from the work of these individuals and groups. SARA mandates the protection of listed wildlife species at risk and their critical habitat. The Oceans ActFootnote10 calls for integrated resource management and an ecosystem perspective. Provinces, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and non-governmental organizations are demanding more involvement in decision making about wild Atlantic salmon.

The Department has been giving increasing importance to sharing stewardship with resource users and other interested parties. The complexity and cost of protecting, restoring, and enhancing salmon populations and habitat require cooperation among DFO, provinces, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, community and other stakeholders,Footnote11 all of whom have an important role to play. The future of wild Atlantic salmon benefits from the involvement and dedication of these groups, collaborating with governments, as well as strategic investments by the Government of Canada. Expectations for the management of Atlantic salmon today require a proactive, forward-looking approach that sets clear conservation goals and acknowledges the importance of protecting biodiversity for sustaining diverse healthy wild Atlantic salmon populations, their habitats, and associated sustainable use. Together with the enjoyment wild Atlantic salmon provide, their place in our cultural identity, and the expectations of Canadians for responsible stewardship, these factors make a compelling case for a new policy approach. This draft of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy takes account of consultations with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, the Provinces, and other stakeholders at sessions held in May-June 2005 on the draft discussion paper released in March 2005 as well as comments received through regional consultations and then DFO website concerning the May 2007 Draft Policy.

The policy that follows will guide future decisions to conserve wild Atlantic salmon and their habitat and will facilitate an adaptive approach to salmon conservation. It neither amends nor overrides existing legislation or regulations but will govern how these statutory authorities will be implemented. The policy defines objectives and describes conservation outcomes, but it does not prescribe decision rules that would restrict its application. It is believed that the approach set forth in this policy offers increased opportunities for the consideration of alternatives, such as habitat initiatives, to assist in addressing protection and rebuilding of wild Atlantic salmon populations. Finally, the approach selected is compatible with the Fisheries ActFootnote12, the Species at Risk Act, and the Oceans Act.

The federal and provincial division of powers is set out in the Constitution Act, 1867.Footnote13 Pursuant to Subsection 91(12) the Parliament of Canada has exclusive legislative authority for all matters relating to “Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries”. Under that head of power, Parliament enacted the Fisheries Act, which gives the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the authority to manage and protect the resource, to provide access to the resource, and to impose appropriate conditions on harvesting. The Parliament of Canada also has exclusive legislative authority in matters relating to “Public Debt and Property” (91(1A)), “Navigation and Shipping” (91(10)), and “Indians and Lands Reserved for the Indians” (91(24)), which, to some degree, are also relevant to this policy.

Subsection 92(13) specifies that the legislature in each province may exclusively make laws in relation to “property and civil rights in the province”. The provincial legislatures also have exclusive power to legislate in matters relating to “management of public lands” (92(5)), and “matters of a merely local or private nature in the Province” (92(16)). Under these heads of power, provincial legislatures have enacted various statutes dealing with land, water, environment, waste disposal, and fisheries. Pursuant to these laws, provincial governments have powers with respect to, amongst others, the harvesting of salmon in inland waters: they issue licences for recreational angling for salmon and other species, and they collect fees for these licences. They have also adopted provincial regulations setting conservation measures such as angler licensing and fish tagging requirements. It is to be noted that provinces may delegate some of those powers to municipalities.

In addition, the Quebec government also has additional delegated powers with respect to fisheries administration, which apply to the management and control of fishing for freshwater fish, as well as anadromous and catadromous species of fish in the waters of the Province and in tidal waters. This delegation is now reflected in the Quebec Fishery Regulations, 1990,Footnote14 DFO remains responsible for the application of the Fisheries Act provisions dealing with the conservation and protection of fish habitat in watercourses in Québec, but Quebec delivers some aspects of this responsibility.

Loss of Species Diversity

Concern for diversity in Atlantic salmon emerged in the Maritime Provinces in the early 1980s, after acid precipitation, with consequential mortality in fresh water, had extirpated salmon in 14 of 65 rivers of the Southern Upland of Nova Scotia. In another 20 rivers, the pH partially impacted salmon populations and enhanced their risk of extirpation[1]. More recent projections[2] suggested that extirpations in the Southern Upland area had likely doubled from those of the early 1980s due to unchanged or worsening pH conditions and reduced marine survival. In the nearby inner Bay of Fundy rivers unaffected by acid rain, the numbers of returning wild salmon declined even more precipitously as a result of high marine mortality.

Several published[3,4] and unpublished studies indicated that salmon of the Southern Upland, the inner Bay of Fundy and elsewhere in Atlantic Canada were genetically distinct from each other (See side bar p16), and were instrumental in the designation of the inner Bay populations as “endangered” in 2001 and their listing under SARA in 2003. Atlantic salmon populations of the Southern Upland region of Nova Scotia and outer Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and the loss of their diversity remain of particular concern to DFO.

[1] DFO (2000), The Effects of Acid Rain on the Atlantic Salmon of the Southern Upland of Nova Scotia.
[2] Amiro, P.G. 2000. Assessment of the status, vulnerability and prognosis for Atlantic salmon stocks of the Southern Upland of Nova Scotia
[3] Verspoor et al. (2002), ‘Restricted matrilineal gene flow and regional differentiation among Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) populations within the Bay of Fundy, Eastern Canada’.
[4] Verspoor, E. (2005), ‘Regional differentiation of North American Atlantic salmon at allozyme loci.’

The legal context for management of wild Atlantic salmon is also shaped by court decisions respecting Aboriginal and treaty rights. Existing Aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and affirmed in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.Note de bas de page 13 In its 1990 decision in R. v. SparrowFootnote15, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the recognition and affirmation of existing Aboriginal rights in the Constitution Act, 1982 means that any infringement of such rights must be justified. As described in more detail in Appendix 1, DFO seeks to manage fisheries in a manner consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. SparrowFootnote15 and subsequent court decisions. Specifically, DFO is committed to managing fisheries such that Aboriginal fishing for food, social and ceremonial purposes has priority over other fisheries.

Atlantic Salmon and Diversity

The health of Atlantic salmon depends not only on their abundance but also on their biological diversity. That diversity includes the irreplaceable lineages of salmon that have evolved through time, the geographic distribution of these populations, the genetic differences and life history variations observed among them, and the habitats that support these differences. Diversity of Atlantic salmon represents their legacy to date and their potential for adaptation to future changes in climate and habitat. Protecting diversity is the most prudent policy for the future continuance of wild Atlantic salmon as well as the ecological processes that depend on them and the cultural, social, and economic benefits drawn from them.

Diversity is lost as populations or their range diminishes. COSEWIC can, when requested, oversee an assessment of the rate of decline in distinct populations segments/ subpopulations or their range to determine the degree to which they are in jeopardy, and need of elevated protection. Aside from the afore-mentioned inner Bay of Fundy populations, no other Atlantic salmon populations have yet been assessed by COSEWIC. Significant declines and extirpations in the southern limits of the salmon’s Canadian range do however suggest the possibility of other candidates for elevated protection against the loss of species diversity. Extirpations, listings and obvious declines in diversity are one, indeed major, impetus for a new management approach for wild Atlantic salmon.

The Importance of Habitat and Ecosystems

To survive and prosper, wild Atlantic salmon depend on appropriate freshwater and marine habitat: no habitat, no salmon. The Fisheries Act defines fish habitat as “Spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.” Healthy, abundant, productive and accessible habitat indirectly provides substantial social benefits to Canadians and international tourists who are drawn to Atlantic Canada and Québec each year for recreational salmon fishing and eco-tourism. However, the land and water that comprise salmon habitat also provide valuable economic opportunities in a wide range of non-fishery-related sectors, such as urban and riverfront development, forestry, agriculture, energy (hydroelectric dams, oil and gas), aquacultureFootnote16 provision of drinking water and others. Productive habitat in Atlantic Canada faces growing pressures from human activities that threaten capacity to sustain wild Atlantic salmon populations over the long term. In addition, competing uses pose a challenge for maintaining healthy, abundant, productive and accessible habitat for Atlantic salmon and other species. Further, there is a concern that habitat accessibility and productivity can deteriorate resultant of many small, incremental and often unidentified impacts that accumulate over time. Finally, ocean and freshwater habitat of Atlantic salmon can be affected by global-scale phenomena, such as climate change through, for example, changing precipitation and temperature patterns affecting the ocean ecosystem, migration routes of salmon, as well as salmon habitat in rivers and streams.

The challenge is to ensure that social and economic activities are conducted in such a way to avoid or mitigate adverse effects on wild Atlantic salmon habitat and to maintain access to productive habitat.

Salmon Diversity and Biodiversity

The diversity in Atlantic salmon described above refers to genetic variation and adaptations to different environments that have accumulated between populations of salmon. The abundance of spawning salmon is understood to be important for the future production of salmon, and it is also critical for the maintenance of genetic variation or diversity within populations, and for fidelity of populations that results from straying. A low level of straying between spawning groups provides an important source of genetic variation and provides for colonization of new habitats. In this policy, the term diversity, or salmon diversity, refers to genetic variation and adaptations within and between populations of wild Atlantic salmon.

In addition, wild Atlantic salmon are part of a larger ecosystem as components of the total biological diversity. In this policy, biological diversity (“biodiversity”) is defined as the full range of variety and variability within and among populations and the ecological complexes in which they occur. Biodiversity also encompasses diversity at the ecosystem, community, species, and genetic levels and the interaction of these components. The protection of biodiversity and understanding of the broader implications of this term are also essential to the implementation and success of this policy. The biodiversity associated with wild Atlantic salmon populations will as well influence the quality and productivity of the salmon’s ecosystems and local habitats and determines the biological background influencing salmon diversity and their adaptability. The SARA recognizes the importance of the diversity within species by defining “wildlife species” to mean “a species, sub-species, variety or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal that is wild by nature and (a) is native to Canada; or (b) has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.”Footnote17 This Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy will include specific plans to define such “geographically or genetically distinct populations” of wild Atlantic salmon and the habitats necessary to protect their biodiversity and, as such, adhere to the definition of “wildlife species” in the SARA.

POLICY FOR THE CONSERVATION OF WILD ATLANTIC SALMON

This policy describes how DFO will meet its responsibilities for the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon. It stipulates an overall policy goal for wild salmon, identifies basic principles to guide resource management decision making, and sets out objectives and strategies to achieve the goal (Figure 3).

The implementation of this policy should lead to:

  • Healthy, diverse, and abundant wild salmon populations for future generations;
  • Sustainable fisheries, to meet the needs of First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and contribute to the current and future prosperity of all Canadians; and
  • Inclusion of ecosystem considerations in management decisions.

Figure 3. Overview of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy

Figure 3. Overview of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy

GOAL AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Important Terminology: Conservation and Sustainable Use and Benefits

The terms- "Conservation" and “Sustainable Use and Benefits" mean different things to different people. Some definitions of conservation include sustainable use, implying that protection of the biological processes and use of resources are both components of conservation. Other definitions, such as in the Convention on Biological Diversity, separate the two concepts and present them as related, but distinct considerations. In this Policy, these terms are defined as follows:

“Conservation” is the protection, maintenance, and rehabilitation of genetic diversity, species, and ecosystems to sustain biodiversity and the continuance of evolutionary and natural production processes[1].

This definition identifies the primacy of conservation over use, and separates issues associated with constraints on use from allocation and priority amongst users.

“Sustainable Use and Benefits” is the use of biological resources in a way and at a rate that does not lead to their long-term decline, thereby maintaining the potential for future generations to meet their needs and aspirations.

As a resource management agency, DFO is committed to the sustainable use and benefit of wild salmon resources. The intent of this Policy is to protect the biological foundation of wild Atlantic salmon to provide the fullest benefits now and for future generations. In the long term, protection of biodiversity will provide the greatest opportunity for maintaining sustainable benefits to Canadians.

[1] see Shuter et al. (1997), Grumbine (1994), Mangel et al. (1996) and Olver et al. (1995).

The goal of the ‘Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy’ is to maintain and restore healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitat, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Canada in perpetuity.

All decisions and activities pertaining to the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon will be guided by four pinciples:

Principle 1 - Conservation. Conservation of wild Atlantic salmon, their genetic diversity and their habitats is the highest priority in resource management decision making.

The protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and their habitats will enable the long-term health and productivity of wild populations and continued provision of cultural, social, and sustainable benefits. To safeguard the long-term viability of wild Atlantic salmon in natural surroundings, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will strive to maintain healthy and genetically diverse populations.

Allocations to First Nations and other Aboriginal Organizations

Resource management processes and decisions will provide for allocations to First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations for food, social, and ceremonial purposes. They will also provide for consultation with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations. Resource management processes and decisions will also be in accordance with any treaties or agreements entered into between Canada and First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations.

Principle 2 - Sustainable Use and Benefits. Resource management decisions will consider biological, social, and economic con-sequences; they will reflect best science including Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) and local knowledge, and they will maintain the potential for future generations to meet their needs and aspirations.Footnote18

The maintenance of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems must be considered in the context of human values now and in the future. Decisions will be made taking into account their costs and/or social consequences.

Maintenance of Diversity in Atlantic Salmon

Diversity in Atlantic salmon reflects genetic and habitat diversity and the evolution of lineages of salmon over thousands of years22. These precise lineages cannot be replaced once lost, and the more numerous they are the greater the chances for salmon to adjust to future environmental changes. Diversity is a kind of insurance that reduces the risk of loss by increasing the likelihood that species and populations will be able to adapt to changing circumstances and survive. Also, maintaining the largest number of spawning populations that are adapted to their individual habitats will result in higher abundances of salmon.

We still have much to learn about the importance of local adaptations at the stream level, the rate at which salmon adapt, and the value of biodiversity. However, since no one can foresee the future stresses on wild salmon, a responsible and precautionary approach recommends conserving a wide diversity of populations and habitats. Atlantic salmon have been diverse and adaptable enough to survive floods and drought, disease, volcanic eruptions, and ice ages. Their survival strategies may continue to serve them in the future unless human-caused pressures become insurmountable. We must ensure that these survival strategies are allowed to function and not destroyed by our growing human footprint. Most aggregations of Atlantic salmon will encompass large areas and include many streams and localized spawning groups. Concerns have been expressed that for large aggregations, individual streams and spawning groups may not be adequately protected even if they are important to local communities. All local spawning groups and streams have value. In practice, protecting large aggregations with their networks of spawning groups is the most effective way to protect individual spawning groups and the interests of local communities.

Principle 3 - Open and Transparent Decision Making.
Resource management decisions will be made in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner.

To gain broad public support for decision making, salmon management must accommodate a wide range of interests in the resource. Decisions about salmon protection and sustainable use will be based on meaningful input from all interested parties to ensure they reflect society’s values. Decision making processes will be transparent and governed by clear and consistent rules and procedures.

Principle 4 – Shared Stewardship. Conservation initiatives will be optimized by actively engaging provincial governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, volunteers and other stakeholders in the development, implementation, promotion, maintenance of, and compliance with management decisions, while DFO maintains it’s legislative authority towards the conservation of Atlantic salmon and its habitat.

It is important to provide an inclusive approach to allow First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders to play a greater and more meaningful role in decision making and thus take more responsibility for those decisions and their outcomes. Promotion of and compliance with management measures is most effectively achieved when First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders and resource users are directly involved in the development and implementation of the measures, including monitoring for compliance.

The Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy and the Precautionary Approach

Article 6.2 of the UN Agreement ‘Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks’ 1995, proclaims that “States shall be more cautious when information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate. The absence of adequate scientific information shall not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management measures.” The Article builds on the original declaration of a precautionary approach (Principle 15, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992), and is also included in the United Nations Fisheries and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries” (1995)[1]

Precautionary approaches are now widely applied in fisheries management and the protection of marine ecosystems. The approach identifies important considerations for management: acknowledgement of uncertainty in information and future impacts and the need for decision making in the absence of full information. It implies a reversal in the burden of proof and the need for longer term outlooks in conservation of resources.

The application of precaution in the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy will follow the guidance provided to federal departments by the Privy Council Office publication[2] entitled “A Framework for the Application of Precaution in Science-based Decision Making About Risk." (Canada, Privy Council Office 2003). That framework includes five principles of precaution:

  • The application of the precautionary approach is a legitimate and distinctive decision making approach within a risk management framework.
  • Decisions should be guided by society’s chosen level of risk.
  • Application of the precautionary approach should be based on sound scientific information.
  • Mechanisms for re-evaluation and transparency should exist.
  • A high degree of transparency, clear accountability, and meaningful public involvement are appropriate.

The Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy will adhere to the use of precaution and be consistent with the Privy Council Office framework and FAO (1995, paragraph 6 (a-h)). For example, the introduction of a lower benchmark e.g., egg deposition level in the 1986 policy (Strategy 1 here-in) was a significant precautionary step in the conservation of Atlantic salmon. In determining the value of the benchmark, all sources of uncertainty in assessment of the indicator system and SMA must be determined (for estimation of the buffer) and the Department and advisors must determine a risk tolerance to be applied in a risk management framework. Where assessment information is highly uncertain, a lower risk tolerance would likely be chosen.

[1] also see FAO (1995);
[2] see http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/index.asp?lang=eng&page=information&sub=publications&doc=precaution/precaution_e.htm

OBJECTIVES

In order to achieve the outcome expressed in the policy goal for the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon, three objectives must be fulfilled:

  1. Safeguard the genetic diversity of wild Atlantic salmon;
  2. Maintain habitat and ecosystem integrity; and
  3. Manage fisheries for sustainable use and benefits.

Implementation of these policy objectives must and will be consistent with the Precautionary Approach (PA), namely that management agencies must be more cautious when information is uncertain and the absence of adequate scientific information cannot be used as a reason for postponing or not taking appropriate conservation measures (also see adjacent text box). Key considerations associated with each of these objectives are described below.

Objective 1: Safeguard the genetic diversity of wild Atlantic salmon.
To sustain Atlantic salmon and their associated benefits, it is necessary to safeguard their geographic and genetic diversity and their habitats (see “Maintenance of diversity in Atlantic salmon” text boxFootnote19). While maintaining diversity is broadly accepted as essential for the health of wild salmon, the significant scientific and policy issue is, “how much diversity?” The genetic diversity of a species includes every individual fish. Preserving maximum genetic diversity would eliminate human harvesting of Atlantic salmon and prohibit any human activity that might harm salmon or their habitat. Conversely, to maintain Atlantic salmon just at the species level but to ignore within-species population structures would reduce diversity and contravene the intent of the Precautionary Approach, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the SARA, and, notably, the intent of this policy.

The Population Structure of Wild Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic salmon have a complex hierarchical population structure extending from groups of salmon at individual spawning sites all the way up to the taxonomic species. Their nearly precise homing to natal streams restricts gene flow among fish at different spawning locations. However, since some salmon stray, genetic exchange also occurs among fish from different persistent spawning sites (demes) in a geographic area. These interactions form a geographic network of demes and the basic level of genetic organization in Atlantic salmon.

The likelihood of genetic exchange decreases with increased distance between streams or with greater environmental differences between streams. Fewer strays and less genetic mixing result in less genetic similarity between fish in these streams. Eventually, as geographic distance or environmental differences grow to severely limit gene flow, the spawning groups will function as separate lineages. These independently functioning aggregates are defined as Conservation Units in this Policy.

Between localized demes and the geographic boundary of a CU are usually intermediate groupings called Populations. A population is a group of interbreeding salmon that is sufficiently isolated (i.e., reduced genetic exchange) from other populations such that persistent adaptations to the local habitat can develop over time. Local adaptations and genetic differences between populations are an essential part of the diversity needed for long-term viability of Atlantic salmon.

DFO intends to safeguard diversity by:

  1. recognizing genetic diversity as the basis for management of Atlantic salmon, regardless of the level of that management,
     
  2. managing Atlantic salmon within existing Salmon Management Areas (SMAs ) (Figure 4; also see adjoining “Population structure” text box).
     
  3. If or when the population status of a group of salmon at the SMA level is at a point of significant decline, management actions would be taken so as to minimize loss of genetic diversity at the SMA, and ultimately, the “Conservation Unit” (CU).Footnote20 A CU is a group of wild salmon sufficiently isolated from other groups that, if extirpated, is very unlikely to recolonize naturally within an acceptable timeframe, e.g., human lifetime or a specified number of salmon generations (also see adjoining text box for further details) Managing at the CU level (as is planned for Pacific salmon on Canada’s West Coast) is a worthy objective that will be attained, once CU’s for Atlantic salmon have been scientifically defined.

Conservation Units for Atlantic salmon

Analyses of genetic markers can provide information on the extent of differentiation and reproductive isolation among salmon from different rivers and geographic areas which, along with ecological, life history, tagging, and other information can be useful in helping to delineate CUs. Few population genetics studies of Atlantic salmon have been carried out at the appropriate spatial scale in the species’ Canadian range. At this time, only the inner Bay of Fundy populations [SMA 22 and part of SMA 23 (Fig. 4)] could, arguably, be designated as a CU[1]. Ecological, life history, and molecular genetic information is required to delineate Atlantic salmon CUs throughout their Canadian distribution.

[1] King et al (2001), Verspoor et al (2002), Verspoor (2005), Verspoor et al (2005), O’Reilly and Cox (2005)

At this time, in Atlantic Canada and Québec, there is, with one exception (inner Bay of Fundy salmon populations), insufficient published information with which to delineate Conservation Units that would safeguard remaining genetic diversity. The eventual delineation of CUs will be based on biological information, including data from molecular genetic markers (essential in identifying ancestral lineages of salmon and to estimate gene flow among populations), phenotypic information (life history, morphology, meristics), ocean distribution data, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) where available, and public consultation. Since the requirements and needs of First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and other interested parties may be at finer geographic scales than CUs and most SMAs , management objectives to address these may be recognized in integrated fisheries management plans (Strategy 4).

There are important implications to the safeguarding of genetic diversity. The persistence of populations and associated production demand responsible management of its populations, watersheds,Footnote21 and habitats as well as the ability of fish to move among habitat areas (connectivity). The loss of a population (e.g. in an index river) and, by possible inference, an SMA/CU would clearly have serious consequences for the people and other ecosystem components that benefit from or depend on it.

Figure 4. Salmon Management Areas in Québec & Atlantic Canada

Figure 4

Over the geographic area of an SMA, variations in habitat type and quality may result in differences in salmon productivity. Such differences in nature mean that not all populations within an SMA are likely to be maintained at equal levels of production or chance of loss. Maintaining SMAs requires protecting populations and demes (see text box above) but not necessarily all of them all of the time. As long as networks of connected demes and streams within SMAs are maintained, any loss of a localized spawning group should be temporary. Maintaining healthy abundances within SMAs requires sufficient spawning salmon to re-colonize depleted spawning areas and protection of fish habitat to support production and maintain connection between localized spawning groups. While salmon from neighbouring demes or populations are unlikely to be genetically identical to those lost, they are likely to be most similar genetically and share many adaptive traits. Such localized losses, whether due to natural events or human activities, would not result in extirpation of the populations within the SMA.

Total success in safeguarding the genetic diversity of wild Atlantic salmon would imply preserving all populations within SMAs . Action steps in this policy are prescribed to maintain populations in SMAs and CUs to the fullest extent possible, but there will likely be circumstances when losses of wild salmon are unavoidable. Catastrophic events are beyond human control and the Department may not be able to restore habitat or spawning demes damaged by such events. The rate of climate change in an area may exceed the ability of some salmon populations to adjust. While it is the clear intent of this policy to prevent losses in genetic diversity resulting from management and use, it is unrealistic in natural environments to expect that all losses can be avoided.

Objective 2: Maintain habitat and ecosystem integrity.

The health and long-term well-being of wild Atlantic salmon is inextricably linked to the availability of diverse, healthy and productive freshwater, coastal, estuarine and marine habitats.

Linking Habitat to Wild Salmon populations within SMAs and Fish Harvest Planning

A key response of the regional Habitat Management Program to the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy is an increased emphasis on integrated planning. Fish production and harvest objectives for wild salmon populations within SMAs will be linked to the conservation, restoration, and development of fish habitat.

Through integrated resource planning, more effective and efficient conservation, protection and restoration of habitat can be achieved as a result of integrating habitat requirements with fisheries management objectives. Resulting habitat management plans will incorporate knowledge of the current and future demands on the aquatic resources, and will be aligned with objectives for fisheries and other resource users within watersheds.

Aquatic habitats and their adjacent terrestrial areas are also valued for a wide range of human uses. The integrity of salmon habitat is challenged by human demand for accessible land and fresh water, for ocean spaces, and for the interconnecting estuarine and coastal areas. In both freshwater and estuaries and near-shore marine areas, human activities can affect the biological, physical, and chemical components of salmon habitat resulting in adverse impacts during critical spawning, rearing, and migration periods. In the open ocean, activities such as commercial fishing, shipping, and waste disposal among others can potentially affect the marine habitat of salmon.

Identifying, protecting habitat and, restoring and rehabilitating degraded aquatic habitats are critical to maintaining their integrity and sustaining ecosystems and the benefits they provide to Canadians. The Fisheries Act contains specific provisions that provide DFO’s Habitat Management Program with the regulatory framework for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat. The habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act are set out in the following provisions:

Sections 20, 21 and 22: Gives the Minister the authority to require the construction, maintenance and operation of fish passage facilities at obstructions in rivers; to require financial support for fish hatchery establishments constructed and operated to maintain runs of migratory fish; to remove unused obstructions to fish passage; and to require a sufficient flow of water at all times below an obstruction for the safety of fish and the flooding of spawning grounds.

Section 30: Gives the Minister the authority to require the installation and maintenance of screens or guards to prevent the passage of fish into water intakes, ditches, canals and channels.

Section 32: Prohibits the destruction of fish by means other than fishing, except as authorized by the Minister or under regulations.

Section 35(2): Prohibits works or undertakings that result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, unless authorized by the Minister or under regulations.

Section 36: Prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances, except where authorized by regulation Currently there are regulations that authorize the deposit of pulp and paper liquid effluent, metal mining liquid effluent, petroleum liquid effluent, and effluents from other industrial sectors.

Environment Canada is responsible for administration and enforcement of Section 36 while DFO retains responsibilities for the administration and enforcement of the other provisions. The application of these provisions is guided by the Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat (DFO 1986) and related operational documents. The Habitat Policy includes: a policy objective of “net gain of habitat for Canada’s fisheries resources”; three goals (conservation, restoration and development); a guiding principle of “no net loss of the productive capacity of fish habitat” to support the conservation goal and eight implementation strategies that includes the concept of integrated planning for habitat management.

One of the key responsibilities of DFO’s Habitat Management Program is to evaluate proposed works or undertakings during the planning stages to determine the impact on fish and fish habitat. Where proposed works or undertakings can result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish or fish habitat in or around water, the first and preferred approach to conserving fish habitat is to relocate or redesign the project so that the anticipated impacts are completely mitigated. Where it is not possible to completely mitigate the impacts of the proposed works or undertakings, DFO may authorize the loss of fish habitat as long as the loss can be off-set through the replacement or compensation of habitat using the hierarchy of preference in the Habitat Policy.

In recent years, the Habitat Management Program has modernized the delivery of its responsibilities. Over that time, a number of policies, programming and organizational changes have been undertaken to make the Program more effective, efficient, and relevant to Canadians (see Appendix 1 [Policy and Programs] for more details). The aim of the Program is to ensure that resources are focused on those areas requiring the greatest attention. With respect to Atlantic salmon, a focus on habitat that is most productive, limiting, or at risk in an SMA or a CU will clarify decision making and better link habitat management strategies to harvest fishing and salmon assessment (see Strategy 4). Low risk works or undertakings, where measures to avoid or mitigate impacts are well understood, will be dealt with through other mechanisms such as operational statements, guidelines and standards together with compliance and effectiveness monitoring and auditing.

It is important to note that, under the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act, DFO does not authorize works or undertakings. Rather, it authorizes the negative impacts on fish and fish habitat associated with works or undertakings, where these impacts are deemed acceptable and compensable. The regulation of works or undertakings associated with land and water uses that may be detrimental to salmon resides with provincial or municipal level government. Success in conserving, protecting and restoring Atlantic salmon habitat demands a cooperative and collaborative approach among the various levels of government so that land and water use activities and decisions better support the needs of Atlantic salmon while recognizing the legitimate demands that other resource interests may make on the water resource. Therefore, DFO will strive to integrate its work with that of other federal government departments, provincial governments, municipalities, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, non-government organizations and voluntary groups and industries in order to effectively manage and protect salmon habitat in ways that recognize the priorities of Canadians.

Objective 3: Manage fisheries for sustainable use and benefits.

The conservation of wild Atlantic salmon and their habitat is the highest priority in this policy. However, a policy that fails to consider the value that Atlantic salmon fishing provides to people would be incomplete. While everyone supports conservation, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and many others rely, to an important extent, on salmon for their food, social, economic, and recreational needs and insist on a balanced policy that provides for sustainable use of wild salmon.

DFO has a responsibility to provide sustainable fishing opportunities that will best meet its obligations to First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, contribute to social well-being, and provide economic benefits to individuals and communities. A significant challenge for this policy is to safeguard the various Atlantic salmon populations, watersheds and SMAs and their genetic diversity while accounting for and realizing the benefits of a sustainable use. Since access restrictions necessary to conserve the wild salmon resource affect communities and individuals; cultural, social, and economic impacts need to be considered.

While overemphasis of the social and economic benefits arising from salmon fishing can compromise salmon conservation, a single focus on maintaining diversity can also mean the elimination of salmon fisheries and/or other human activities in some areas. In reality, the interests of both salmon and people need to be accounted for in a successful conservation program. This policy describes a management framework that can provide care and respect for a resource and its ecosystem and for the people within it. Protecting the watershed provides the maximum potential for benefits to people. The full measure of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy’s success will be the achievement of salmon conservation accompanied by sustainable use and benefits.

The best decisions for salmon management cannot be made by any one group alone. While choices must certainly be informed by scientific and technical information, the best decisions will ultimately reflect public values. This requires structured processes that: (1) establish specific objectives and priorities and (2) allow the biological, social and economic consequences of different management measures and activities to be considered and weighed in an open and transparent way with respect to these objectives.

Management for sustainable use and benefits, is particularly important to the provinces who have a significant economic interest in many aspects of sustainable development and license sales represented in freshwater recreational fisheries. Furthermore, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, aquaculturists, recreational fishers and the recreational fishing industry, watershed groups, environmental groups, and community interests need to be engaged directly in these processes, and in the determination of the most appropriate management actions. Individual and community involvement in salmon management decision making, in turn, will sustain the social and cultural ties between people and salmon. These ties will ultimately lead to the more successful implementation of management plans and the better protection of wild Atlantic salmon.

The establishment of good management measures alone is not enough to ensure success in conserving and protecting a resource such as wild Atlantic salmon. An effective compliance program must be maintained to promote awareness of and compliance with management measures. Such a program must focus on promoting voluntary compliance, on monitoring legitimate fisheries and other activities for compliance, and on enforcement against those who violate. There are many examples of First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholder involvement in all of these compliance aspects (such as by local “River/ Conservation watch” or Stewardship groups, Crime stoppers-type programs, and Aboriginal Fishery Guardian and Community Compliance Monitor initiatives) – these should be expanded. Furthermore, provinces have strong compliance programs regarding Atlantic salmon; these need to be fully recognized when developing an overall, improved and coordinated compliance approach as advocated under this policy

STRATEGIES AND ACTION STEPS

This policy will be implemented through six “strategies” and related “action steps” as summarized in Table 1. Strategies 1 through 3 will provide the information on wild Atlantic salmon populations, their habitats, and ecosystems required for decision making and planning necessary to meet Objectives 1 and 2. Strategy 4 requires the integration of biological, social, and economic information to produce integrated fisheries management plans for salmon and habitat management for each SMA i.e., Objective 3. Strategy 5 is the translation of integrated fisheries management plans into operational plans and Strategy 6 is a commitment to ongoing review of the implementation and success of the policy.

Table 1. Wild Atlantic Salmon strategies and action steps
1. Assessment and monitoring of population status
  • Develop criteria to assess populations within SMAs and identify benchmarks to represent biological status
  • Monitor and assess status of populations within SMAs
2. Conservation and protection of Atlantic salmon habitat
  • Administer habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act
  • Monitor and assess habitat health and status
  • Identify salmon habitat needs and priorities
  • Promote and support linkages to develop an integrated data system for watershed management
3. Inclusion of ecosystem values and monitoring
  • Identify indicators to use in monitoring the status of freshwater ecosystems
  • Identify indicators to use in monitoring the status of salmon’s marine ecosystems
  • Integrate climate, freshwater, and ocean information into wild Atlantic salmon management processes
4. Integrated fisheries management planning
  • Develop multi-year integrated fisheries management plans for wild Atlantic salmon
  • Approval of integrated fisheries management plans
5. Program delivery
  • Assess and monitor the status of populations
  • Plan and monitor annual fisheries
  • Collaborate on river specific/ watershed multi-year approaches
  • Plan and implement habitat management activities
6. Performance review
  • Conduct post-season review of annual management plans
  • Conduct regular reviews of the success of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy

STRATEGY 1: ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING OF POPULATION STATUS

Biological Status Zones and Management Response

Having populations in the Red Zone is undesirable because of the loss of ecological benefits and salmon production. The presence of a population(s) in the Red Zone will initiate immediate consideration of ways to protect the fish, increase their abundance, and reduce the potential risk of loss. Biological considerations will be the primary drivers for management of populations with Red status.

Amber status implies management with caution. While populations in the Amber Zone should be at a low risk of loss, there will be a degree of lost production. Decisions about the conservation of populations in the Amber Zone will involve broader consideration of biological, social, and economic issues. Assuming a population is assessed to be safe in the Amber Zone (consistent with Principle 1), then the use of adjacent populations involves a comparison of the benefits from restoring production versus the costs arising from limitations imposed on the use of other populations to achieve that restoration.

Social and economic considerations will tend to be the primary drivers for the management of populations in the Green Zone, though ecosystem or other non-consumptive use values could also be considered.

This policy requires a systematic process to monitor abundance and distribution of Atlantic salmon over time. It supports fisheries management renewal in changing the role of users of fisheries resources (e.g. recreational fishing industry, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations) by working in closer collaboration to manage the resource, collect scientific data and conduct fisheries assessments. Research will be peer reviewed and include support from academic partners. The following action steps present how the responsible government agencies will identify and assess wild Atlantic salmon populations within SMAs in their respective jurisdictions, in cooperation with provincial governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders.

Action Step 1.1. Develop criteria to assess SMAs and identify benchmarks to represent biological status.

The biological status of SMAs will normally be based on the abundance and distribution of spawners in index river(s). For an index river, higher and lower benchmarks will be identified that delimit three status zones: green, amber, and red (Figure 5). As spawner abundance decreases in an index river, a population and, presumably, its SMA moves towards the lower status zone and the probability of management intervention for conservation purposes will increase. Whereas the lower benchmark could be considered as a criterion to protect the resource, the higher benchmark could be considered a level to optimize its use.

Benchmarks identify when the biological production status of an index river and presumably SMA, have changed significantly but they are not necessarily prescriptive. Changes in status will initiate management actions (see text box above). The specific responses will vary among geographic regions and cause of the decline and will be assessed through the integrated fisheries management planning process described in Strategy 4. The use of status zones and generic methods to determine benchmarks recognizes variability in data quality and quantity and is consistent with current management approaches adopted by other agencies.Footnote22

Figure 5. Benchmarks and biological status zones to be determined for indicator systems and each SMA.

Figure 5

In this Policy the lower benchmark between Amber and Red will be established as the level of abundance high enough to ensure there is a substantial buffer between it and the level of abundance that could lead to an index river(s), and SMA being at considerable risk of serious harm. The buffer should account for uncertainty in data, the understanding of population dynamics, and control by fisheries management. The general rule used for a number of years for determination of the lower benchmark for Atlantic salmon in Atlantic Canada has been the conservation egg deposition rate of 2.4 eggs per m2 of rearing habitat. Similar conservation and egg deposition rates, but at different levels, have been established for rivers in Eastern Canada. These conservation egg deposition rates have been regarded as proxies for the level of spawners which would result in the maximum sustained yield (MSY) or in some literature, spawners for optimum yieldFootnote23 which equate to the ‘conservation limit’Footnote24 used in regional, national, and international fisheries management. Obviously, there is significant potential to modify these criteria on a river/ SMA-specific basis. Examples of criteria which could be considered, based on detailed biological information, areFootnote25:

  • The spawning escapement which produces, on average, a percentage (e.g., 50-75%) of the maximum juvenile abundance;
  • The abundance and distribution of spawners within an index river(s) and SMA sufficient to provide confidence that the population(s) and SMA are at a low risk of serious harm (e.g., <5% chance over 50 years).

Within the Red Zone, the population is at a level of abundance at which further mortalities will lead to continued decline in the spawner abundance and an increasing risk of serious harm. Determining this level in the zone is an unresolved issue and is not specified in this policy. The determination of the risk tolerance is one that requires consultation with resource users affected by this choice. The respective government agencies will over time prepare and publish operational guidelines on the estimation of this level. The management response to this level will be assessed on a case-by-case basis in consultation with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and others affected by this determination.

The higher benchmark between Green and Amber should identify a management target with the intention of providing optimum use of the resource. As with the lower benchmark, the upper benchmark will be established on a case-by-case basis depending on the intended use, the regulatory framework in place and the types of information available. This level may change through time but there would be a near negligible probability of losing the population(s) and SMA. The determination of this benchmark is also a value judgement that requires consultation with all potential users and benefactors of the resource. Examples of potential benchmarks include:

  • The spawning escapement which produces (on average) a percentage (e.g. 75%) of the maximum recruitment to the river or SMA, i.e., Smax or (Srmax);Footnote26
  • A spawning escapement which produces recruitment at a level where harvesting at the optimum exploitation rate results in a very low probability that the resultant spawning escapement will be at or below the lower benchmark.

Action Step 1.2. Monitor and assess status of populations within SMAs .

Assessment involves the use of various analyses to make predictions about future abundance often based on previous management plans.Note de bas de page 26 Selected populations and SMAs will be assessed by working in closer partnership with users of the resource in the collection of scientific data and assessment of populations taking uncertainty into account as background to advice for management (including conservation when necessary). For wild Atlantic salmon in eastern Canada, however, assessments have been a complex and usually costly task, involving numerous data sources collected on about 75 river systems. Consequently, DFO and Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune in the province of Québec have used three levels of monitoring programs in index rivers in the assessment of Atlantic salmon:

  1. Level 1: Research programs involving counts or estimates of the spawning adults, juveniles produced, mature progeny produced (reported in the catch and spawning numbers) from the specific system. These research programs are the most information rich and expensive but provide critical information for management such as productivity and sustainable rates of exploitation (population dynamic values), survival rates for major life history phases (e.g. freshwater and marine survival), and exploitation patterns and rates in fisheries.
  2. Level 2: Annual surveys of the numbers of spawning salmon in specific streams or habitats within a geographic area. These surveys involve quantitative designs that can be replicated annually to provide consistent indices of spawners between years. The accuracy and precision of the estimates will vary with methodologies and habitats but the essential component is that there is a high degree of confidence that inter-annual trends are accurately assessed. For example, methods may involve in-river counting facilities and operations, mark-recapture programs, and surveys of juvenile production in streams and lakes.
  3. Level 3: Surveys that are the least expensive and least informative programs but enable the broadest coverage of streams or habitats within a geographic area. These surveys are useful for examining relative abundance of mature salmon and could include indices such as catch per unit of effort within in-river fisheries, juvenile abundance surveys, or indices of adults in tributaries.

Monitoring plans for SMAs will be selected from those existing and, with local partnering (e.g., First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations’ agreements), will be designed to assess the status of populations within the SMAs . The assessment procedures applied will vary between SMAs but monitoring plans for each SMA will be documented. The benchmarks specified for an SMA must be stated in units consistent with the monitoring plan for that SMA in order that the annual status of the SMA can be assessed. An agreed-upon minimum monitoring plan by the government agencies and collaborators will maintain the long-term information fundamental to management of local salmon resources. Each monitoring plan will be peer reviewed to ensure application of appropriate designs and methods to ensure that information management systems have been developed. A key objective of these monitoring plans will be to make certain that data collected are used in a timely way for the provision of advice.

Assessment results for an SMA compared to its two benchmarks will determine the biological status of the SMA. This status determination will help to guide resource management planning and further stock assessment activities. When an SMA is in the Green Zone, a detailed analytical assessment of its biological status will not usually be needed. For an SMA in the Amber Zone, a detailed assessment may be necessary as input to Strategies 2 and 3 below. If the SMA is classified as Red, a detailed assessment will normally be triggered to examine impacts on the SMA of fishing, habitat degradation, and other human factors and to evaluate potential for restoration.

STRATEGY 2: CONSERVATION AND PROTECTION OF ATLANTIC SALMON HABITAT

Healthy Atlantic salmon populations depend on the maintenance of the current productive capacity of salmon habitats, on the rehabilitation of degraded habitats and on the restoration of access to otherwise productive habitats. This can be achieved through the timely review of proposed works or undertakings to prevent changes that can negatively affect fish and existing fish habitat using a risk-based approach, through monitoring for compliance with the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act and applicable SARA provisions, through monitoring of the effectiveness of measures aimed at achieving “no net loss” of habitat productive capacity, through the assessment of salmon habitat health and status and through the identification of salmon habitat needs and priorities.

The successful conservation and rehabilitation of salmon habitat will require a collaborative approach that integrates the roles and responsibilities of other federal departments and provincial and municipal governments. It also requires the collaboration of key partners such as First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, non-government organizations, watershed groups, universities, industries, etc. Partnering provides mechanisms for information sharing which will lead to the establishment of common priorities that will guide regulatory activities at all levels of government. The collaborative approach also enhances public awareness with regard to Atlantic salmon and its habitat and provides opportunities to promote stewardship of the salmon resource.

The department will strive to progressively implement the following action steps to improve the effectiveness of efforts aimed at conserving, rehabilitating and restoring access to salmon habitat. In collaboration with its partners, the Habitat Management Program will focus on regulatory and compliance responsiveness and effectiveness, strengthen linkages between habitat protection and fish production objectives, and provide guidance on watershed planning initiatives.

Action Step 2.1. Administer habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.

Regulatory reviews

Canada’s fishery resources and fish habitat can be adversely affected by a range of works or undertakings that occur in or near water. DFO has responsibilities for the protection of fish and fish habitat under the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act (see Objective 2) (and, by extension, SARA). The harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat is prohibited unless authorized by the DFO pursuant to subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act. To ensure the effectiveness of conservation and protection efforts, a risk management approach will be applied to ensure that resources are focused on those habitats that are most important to the production of Atlantic salmon. The presence or absence of wild Atlantic salmon as well as the quality and quantity of the habitat will be used as an indicator to inform the level of risk associated with the issuance of an Authorization for the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat resulting from proposed works or undertakings. Furthermore, when assessing the level of risk associated with proposed works or undertakings in or around Atlantic salmon habitat, the specific habitat sensitivities will be considered based on their particular region or SMA.

Conduct habitat compliance and effectiveness monitoring.

Monitoring is an important component of the Habitat Management Program. Monitoring is performed to confirm compliance with regulatory requirements and to assess if the requirements have achieved the desired outcome of habitat conservation and protection. Compliance monitoring aims to ensure that works or undertakings are carried out in compliance with the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act and any SARA provisions that may apply. The Conservation & Protection and Habitat Management programs must collaborate (in accordance with national and regional policies and agreements) in effectively promoting and monitoring compliance with measures protecting salmon habitat, as well in carrying out enforcement actions in relation to serious salmon habitat violations. Effectiveness monitoring will inform the Habitat Management Program as to whether or not measures aimed at achieving the objective of “no net loss” of habitat productive capacity are successful.

Compliance and effectiveness monitoring of works or undertakings presenting risks to Atlantic salmon and its habitat will be conducted in collaboration with science, proponents, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders. The information gathered will be used to ensure the continuous improvement in the conservation and protection of wild Atlantic salmon habitat.

Action Step 2.2 Monitor and assess habitat health and status.

Where possible, habitat and population monitoring (Action Step 1.2) will be integrated to help better understand habitat use by salmon. Where the importance of a habitat is uncertain, integration of habitat, population, ecological and chemical monitoring will be considered to better understand the relationship between changes in habitat condition and changes in salmon production and distribution. Habitat health monitoring can also be used to assess the effectiveness of regulatory decisions and rehabilitation measures by comparing monitoring information with benchmarks and standards. Monitoring results can provide information for both longer-term integrated management planning and annual operations in habitat management. If a decline in habitat quality or quantity over time is detected, efforts will be made to identify the causes and response measures will be considered as part of an integrated fisheries management plan for the SMA.

Action Step 2.3 Identify salmon habitat needs and priorities.

The successful implementation of compliance and effectiveness, and fish habitat health monitoring will provide four key inputs to guide habitat management activities. These key inputs are:

  • Important habitat in need of protection to maintain salmon productivity;
  • Habitat constraints that adversely affect salmon productivity;
  • Areas where habitat rehabilitation or restoration is possible (e.g. de-fragmentation of habitat by way of effective fish passage) and the contribution of those efforts to increase the margin for sustainability can be evaluated; and
  • Identification of areas where habitat assessments or research are required to fill the information gaps.

These key inputs can also guide the development of integrated fisheries management plans (Strategy 4) which will establish long-term priorities for habitat protection, rehabilitation, and restoration Strategy 5 where annual plans will be developed including ongoing compliance and regulatory functions. These inputs will also be useful for other jurisdictions responsible for components of salmon habitat.

In the case of SARA-listed populations, the four key inputs will help in identifying “critical habitat” and “residence” and facilitate the assessment of “incidental harm”. Furthermore, the key inputs will help SARA recovery teams establish priority actions to be included in the Recovery Strategy.

The identification of salmon habitat needs and priorities requires a collaborative approach where all partners volunteer their knowledge, perspectives and unique understanding of salmon habitat and its contribution to the production of salmon at a broad and local level. This information will allow DFO to recognize, protect, rehabilitate and restore access to habitats required for the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon using tools appropriate to the circumstances. Through integrated planning, priority will be placed on efforts that will provide the greatest benefits to salmon.

Action Step 2.4. Promote and support linkages to develop an integrated data system for watershed management.

Habitat characteristics and associated geographic information will in time be integrated for individual SMAs . Sources of habitat information will be obtained through the regulatory activities and through other sources that may include; governments, including federal, provincial, and municipal, agencies such as institutes or universities, private industries such as forestry and recreational fisheries, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and watershed groups. An overview report will be prepared for each SMA that strives to provide information to identify initial priorities for protection, rehabilitation and restoration of habitat. The initial report will also identify information gaps and factors that may constrain or threaten the health and productivity of habitats in the SMA. This information will contribute to watershed planning with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, other jurisdictions, and the recreational fishing industry and will serve as an initial guide for habitat protection and planning priorities in Strategies 4 and 5.

Together with provincial governments and other partners, DFO will work towards the promotion of a linked, collaborative system to increase access to information on fish habitat status. More unified salmon habitat data collections can be achieved by improving common access to the extensive data holdings of DFO, provincial agencies, other levels of government, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders that describe watersheds and habitat conditions. Improved sharing of information will accelerate and strengthen assessment and reporting of habitat status for SMAs . Over time, it will also allow cumulative changes in habitats and wild salmon status to be identified and appropriate actions taken.

STRATEGY 3: INCLUSION OF ECOSYSTEM VALUES AND MONITORING

Atlantic salmon are a small component of the biomass in the marine environment but represent a large component in numerous freshwater ecosystems (lakes and streams). No studies provide advice on the numbers of salmon necessary for healthy freshwater and marine ecosystems or link these ecosystems with the dramatic effect that changes in climate and the aquatic environment can have on the survival and production of Atlantic salmon. It is known that density-dependent effects, as well as many environmental factors, can influence the salmon production in freshwaterFootnote27 and multiple factors can affect the survival of salmon at sea.Footnote28 Regardless, salmon production is highly variable and factors in both environments can have enormous effects on the abundance of adult salmon. Indeed, survival rates in freshwater and in the sea have been measured to vary by more than tenfold.

A challenge for the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy will be the incorporation of the ecosystem objective that is widely appreciated but difficult to quantify. Coupled with this uncertainty is increasing concern for long-term climate change that will affect Atlantic marine and freshwater ecosystems. Monitoring this variation and implementing appropriate management responses to address potential impacts will enrich understanding of stock changes and will be increasingly important to future conservation efforts.

The Department’s intent is to progressively consider ecosystem values in salmon management, but it acknowledges a limited ability to do so at the present time. The following steps will provide the scientific understanding and technical capacity to include ecosystem values over time.

Action Step 3.1: Identify indicators (biological, physical, and chemical characteristics) to use in monitoring the status of freshwater ecosystems.

The Department will use existing data and expert advice to identify key indicators of the current and potential state of lake and stream ecosystems (diversity of organisms, rates of biological production, etc.) with the intent to develop and integrate an ecosystem monitoring and assessment approach with ongoing assessments on the status of wild salmon. Implementation of this approach will be coordinated (see Strategy 4) with the monitoring of index river(s) and SMA status (Action Step 1.2), their habitats (Action Step 2.4), and marine conditions (Action Step 3.2).

Climate/ Environmental Change and Wild Atlantic Salmon

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, a key measure of climate variability in the Northwest Atlantic, has been either below normal or near-normal since the early 2000s. This has resulted in reduced Arctic air outflow during the winter months resulting in above normal annual air temperatures, reduced sea-ice extent and increasing ocean temperatures over much of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) convention area.[1]

The environmental-related effects anticipated for wild salmon are difficult to predict. Common freshwater expectations include increased summer water temperatures, changes in seasonal flows, more extreme flow events, and changes to ecosystems that can alter distribution of both prey and predators of salmon. In spite of the recent warming and indeed record ocean temperatures in the Northwest Atlantic both climate prediction models and patterns in historical data suggest colder oceanographic climate in the coming decades in some regions of the North Atlantic. The salinity of ocean surface waters will also be affected both by the increased melting of polar sea-ice and glaciers.

Salmon productivity and survival at sea have been correlated with indices of environmental conditions but the functional relationships remain uncertain.  The recent cold period of the late 1980’s to early 1990’s in the Northwest Atlantic altered properties of the ecosystem and, among other events, was concomitant with changes in salmon run timing, and declines in marine survival and subsequent adult returns to rivers.  The distribution and abundance of various prey organisms was altered and possibly affected the distribution of marine predators.  The effects of these changes to salmon productivity are unknown.

[1] Colbourne, E. B., Craig, J., Fitzpatrick, C., Senciall, D., Stead, P. and Bailey, W., 2007. An assessment of the physical oceanographic environment on the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelf during 2006. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2007/30, 18 p.

Action step 3.2: Identify indicators (biological, physical, and chemical characteristics) to use in monitoring the status of the salmon’s marine ecosystems.

Marine and estuarine conditions are believed to exert important influences on Atlantic salmon and against a background of serious concern about the decline of the species, it is becoming increasingly important these factors are considered in the development of management processes for the conservation and management of wild Atlantic salmon. Sea surface temperature may be one of the key factors affecting natural salmon mortality by influencing the distribution of plankton assemblages and associated dependent prey species. A number of species of predatory fish, birds and marine mammals are thought to contribute to mortality. Predation pressure may be affected by widespread changes in overall marine productivity; for example, oceanic warming may force some predators to begin exploiting novel sources of prey.

In an effort to identify marine factors important to the survival of Atlantic salmon, the Department will continue the monitoring of smolt survival and further explore ideas developed at the Sydney and Dalhousie workshops.Footnote8Footnote9 Priorities and work plans with potential private sector stakeholders, government collaborators, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, with expertise in population ecology of marine organisms and ocean science will be established to develop a research strategy in estuarine, coastal, Atlantic and Labrador Sea waters frequented by North American salmon. Work plans for a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary post-smolt survey throughout the Canadian salmon’s Northwest Atlantic range would, for example, outline the development of theoretical migration models from existing data. Such models would facilitate the planning of well-targeted and detailed marine surveys, including standardization of survey techniques and a funding strategy.

Oceanic influences on salmon growth, behaviour and survival are complex and difficult to study because of the large temporal and spatial scales over which they operate and the dynamic nature of the marine environment in both time and space. Linking variations in salmon returns to changes in the aquatic ecosystems requires large-scale monitoring programs that are costly and best delivered through planning and collaborative agreements. Hence efforts will be made nationally and internationally to collaborate/ cost share with interested parties in the actual conduct of, for example, a comprehensive Northwest Atlantic-wide survey to collect information on migration patterns, distribution and possible factors at sea which effect the status of salmon, collate and analyse data and populate migration models. One such opportunity for collaboration is with NASCO's International Atlantic Salmon Research BoardFootnote29 (IASRB ).

Expenditures on researching salmon at sea

Expenditures by Canada for 2007 were in the order of over $2 million (Cdn) 20% of the total identified expenditure of over $10 million (Cdn) by all parties to NASCO on this file. Canada also contributed $100,000 to the International Atlantic Salmon Research Fund. In 2008, Canada will contribute $800,000 in-kind which constitutes 23 days of ship time for scientists to collect data on Atlantic salmon at-sea mortality. Costs for ship time total approximately $500,000 and another $300,000 will be spent for the associated personnel, equipment and logistics.

This IASRB has established an inventory of on-going research in relation to mortality of salmon at sea. The inventory has enabled gaps in the research program and priorities for research to be identified. A new comprehensive, innovative program of research, the SALSEA program,Footnote30 has been developed by the IASRB and a fund raising program is now being developed to support the additional research required throughout the North Atlantic Ocean, estimated to be in the range of $15-20 million (Cdn) over 5 years. The SALSEA program contains a comprehensive mix of freshwater, estuarine, coastal and offshore elements, ensuring a thorough overview of factors which may affect the mortality of Atlantic salmon. It is a very ambitious program that will take many years to complete, but it encompasses all of the key areas where additional scientific knowledge is required. The success of this program will depend on initial development work for SALSEA on sampling gear, genetic stock identification, techniques, migration models and scale analysis techniques. Canada, as a result of its having a high proportion of the salmon production in the North Atlantic, and as well, its past scientific leadership in salmon research, is expected to play a significant role in the SALSEA program.

Action Step 3.3: Integrate climate, freshwater, and ocean information into wild Atlantic salmon management processes.

To understand changes in climate and the freshwater and marine environments and their consequences for salmon production, the freshwater monitoring programs identified in Action Step 3.1 will be integrated with programs investigating variability in climate and ocean conditions. Canada is developing broad-based programs to monitor and study these conditions.

Information on climate and marine conditions will continue to be provided through DFO’s State of the Ocean reports; DFO will search for linkages with assessments of the marine survival of Atlantic salmon. Coupled with results from Action Steps 3.1, 3.2 and 2.2 and ongoing assessment of salmon survival, research could lead to improved forecasts of salmon abundance for management purposes. This step is also linked to Canada’s Oceans Strategy, which recognizes the need to better understand ecosystem dynamics, including climate variability and impact of change on living marine resources. A more comprehensive view of salmon production and its determinants, from egg to spawning adult, will be necessary to direct management actions more accurately and effectively conserve the Atlantic salmon resources in an uncertain future.

There is increasing evidence and support that the world’s climate is changing and, in particular, that “global warming” is taking place.Footnote31 The subsequent/ consequent environmental variations will likely lead to increased variability in marine survival and production of Atlantic salmon. When and where change occurs will also be highly variable. So how can the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy possibly protect Atlantic salmon against these events? Changes under the policy will have limited ability to directly protect salmon, but the policy’s purpose – to protect diversity and their habitats – is critical to allowing Atlantic salmon to adapt to future changes. By protecting the genetic diversity of wild salmon and the integrity of their habitat and ecosystems, the policy will help ensure viable wild salmon populations in the future.

STRATEGY 4: INTEGRATED FISHERIES MANAGEMENT PLANNING

Towards Integrated Fisheries Management Planning

Integrated fisheries management planning by DFO, Aboriginal, commercial and recreational salmon fishing groups pre-dates the 1986 policy and has continued with varying degrees of success in many SMAs of Atlantic Canada and Québec, e.g., Zone Management Advisory Committees (ZMACs).

More recently in the Atlantic provinces, several examples of community-based watershed management plans have emerged. The Maritimes Stewardship Strategy has been vetted by DFO and three provinces as a blueprint for federal-provincial cooperation and coordination in support of community stewardship. This is a useful starting point, but much more needs to be done to link this stewardship strategy to more localized watershed-based planning processes and interests, as well as to broader marine area planning initiatives.

A challenge in implementing the Wild Atlantic Salmon Policy is to ensure that an effective planning process leads to decisions that fully safeguard the genetic diversity of wild Atlantic salmon, maintain the integrity of their habitat and ecosystems, and result in fisheries that are managed for sustainable benefits, i.e., address or account for the needs of First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations for food, social and ceremonial purposes and other Canadians. Furthermore, the planning process must involve not just “salmon users” but other relevant users of aquatic resources. Strategy 4 addresses this challenge through fisheries management planning processes and outcomes, using the new integrated fisheries management plan (IFMP) template and precautionary approach as framework components.

Integrated Fisheries Management Planning

Figure 6. Atlantic Salmon Integrated Management Planning

Figure 6. Atlantic Salmon Integrated Management Planning

Text Description of Figure 6

Figure 6. Atlantic Salmon Integrated Management Planning

Atlantic Salmon Advisory Committee (ASAC) (provinces, FNs & other Aboriginal organizations, stakeholders, & DFO)

  1. Reviews DFO Regional/Québec Integrated Fisheries management plans
  2. Inputs to NASCO

DFO Regions & Québec Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (multi year)

Developed in consultations with

  • Provinces
  • FNs & other Aboriginal org's
  • Stakeholders (SMAC's)

First Nations & other Aboriginal organizations

  • allocations & management measures

Annual Fishing Plans

  • organized along provincial boundaries

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been developing and using integrated fisheries management plans (IFMP) for several years. (see text box above). Recently, DFO renewed its IFMP template to better describe the requirements for applying the precautionary approach to fisheries and for factoring ecosystem and economic considerations into fishery decision-making. The new IFMP template is part of the new Sustainable Fisheries Framework, a departmental initiative to develop the policies and tools required to support a sustainable fisheries management regime and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management in Canada. The Sustainable Fisheries Framework and the new IFMP template call for a more structured, systematic, and inclusive approach leading to the development of IFMPs that apply the principles of risk management and the precautionary approach in defining the benchmarks, establishing objectives, and developing fisheries management strategies and controls.Footnote32 (Figure 6) The IFMP template and associated guidelines also strive to ensure that IFMPs incorporate the principles of performance measurement through the development of measurable objectives and regular evaluation of progress towards those objectives.

Integrated fisheries management planning involves both an integrated process and an integrated plan document, with the primary purpose being to provide a planning framework for the conservation and sustainable use of fish resources (Figure 6). As a process, it allows for enhanced input by resource users, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders into decisions about conservation measures and other issues. It also requires that the activities of the relevant sectors within the Department are incorporated into the management planning (see Box “Key Attributes of Effective Planning”). As a document, an integrated fisheries management plan provides a clear and concise summary of the fish resource status and ecosystem considerations, any fisheries on that resource, the management objectives for the resource, the management and conservation measures used to achieve those objectives and the criteria by which attainment of objectives will be measured. An integrated fisheries management plan is a valuable source of information for fisheries managers, biologists, stake-holders, other government departments, non-government organizations, and the general public.Footnote33

Key Attributes of Effective Planning

An effective planning process will require the various interests involved to build the mutual trust necessary to work together toward their goals. Key attributes of the process should be:

Inclusiveness: All parties that are affected by a planning outcome should have the opportunity to provide input to the articulation of objectives, the identification of management options, and the evaluation and selection of management alternatives. All parties should respect the others’ opinions and processes and work towards consensus.

Transparency: Responsibility for final decision making and linkages between the various parts of the planning structure should be clearly described and agreed upon. Information considered in making recommendations should be publicly available and communicated in a timely manner. Recommendations and decisions should be carefully described and the reasons for them clearly explained.

Effectiveness: Individual planning bodies within the planning structure should be small enough to provide for focused discussion and dialogue but large enough to represent the full range of interests in the matters under discussion.

Respect for consultation processes with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations: Planning processes will include consultations with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations. For example, food, social, and ceremonial fisheries are negotiated by the Department and the Province of Québec with individual First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and are not part of the IFMP content.

Respect for other existing processes: The results of other planning processes must also be respected, particularly those that deal with legal requirements under SARA and other federal legislation and obligations under international treaties.

Accountability: Participants in the planning process must be accountable to the people they represent by defending the advice they have provided and to the process by defending the manner in which decisions were made. 

Annual fishing plans specific to First Nation and other Aboriginal organizations will be developed in consultation with individual First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, except in Québec where the province leads those consultations.

Team Approach

The development of sound and integrated fisheries management plans requires a team effort from a number of DFO sectors (Resource Management, Science, Habitat, Conservation and Protection, Aboriginal Fisheries, Policy and Economics, and Oceans), provinces, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and other stakeholders. By working as a team, the different participants will gain a better understanding of the challenges of developing the various components of a management plan and will be able to contribute different and valuable perspectives for each component of the plan. Evaluation of the plan’s outcome against plan objectives will also involve DFO sectors provinces, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders.

For example, although fisheries scientists play the key role in establishing the benchmarks and biological objectives, they can also provide valuable insight in determining the appropriate management strategies to achieve these benchmarks and achievement of the objectives. By participating as a team member from the start of the development of a plan, Conservation and Protection personnel will better understand the fisheries management objectives and how they are linked to strategies and control measures. With this knowledge, they will be better able to develop practical, deliverable, and compliance and enforcement plans to protect wild Atlantic salmon. Habitat managers can assist through the application of the DFO Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat to ensure conservation of existing habitat and the possible improvements in fish habitat and fish passage under provision of the Fisheries Act. First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and other stakeholders also have knowledge and experience to contribute to the process, and can gain a fuller understanding of the risks and constraints of various options, leading to better provincial, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and other stakeholder buy-in to the final plan.

Consultations

Across Atlantic Canada and Québec, planning related to wild Atlantic salmon management occurs at various geographic scales and for a variety of purposes (Figure 6). Consultations take place with individual First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations to establish fishing plans for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Initiatives are underway in local areas involving First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, the provinces, local stewardship groups, and other community interests brought together to sustain fish habitat at the watershed level. Where appropriate, and where all parties are agreeable, DFO may enter into formal memoranda of agreement or understanding with provinces and community groups for the management of a particular watershed. In addition, DFO re-affirms its commitment to consult with provinces and territories as outlined in the Agreement on Interjurisdictional Cooperation with respect to Fisheries and Aquaculture.

More broadly, integrated fisheries management plans are developed in consultation with all First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders interested in wild Atlantic salmon. At the broadest geographic scale, the Government of Canada, with input from advisors, engages in planning, negotiating and discussing issues related to wild Atlantic salmon conservation under the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO). It is through NASCO that we have achieved prohibitions on high seas salmon fisheries and regulatory control on any interception fisheries on our stocks at West Greenland (and potentially Faeroe Islands). These fisheries on our stocks, historically at very significant levels in Greenland, have now been closed, leaving only remnant subsistence harvests in coastal Greenland (approximately 20 tonnes) and no fisheries at the Faeroe Islands.

Action Step 4.1: Develop multi-year IFMPs for wild Atlantic salmon.

Under the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy, DFO regional fisheries managers will work towards the development of IFMPs for Atlantic salmon for multi-year periods. Regional IFMPs will be structured to address management issues at the SMA level. Should new scientific information become available such plans will be developed at the CU level. Planning at either level will use the IFMP process (see previous text box), with the potential for different objectives and measures to take account of the different circumstances in presently, the various SMAs .

These plans will take into account the biological status of wild Atlantic salmon in the SMAs and will provide recommendations on salmon conservation that reflect the interests of people at local and regional levels. Strategies 1, 2 and 3 will provide information on the status of the SMAs , their habitat and the ecosystem as inputs to the IFMP planning process (Figure 6). The process will integrate this information and:

  • specify long-term benchmarks for the SMA that ensure conservation and sustainable use and benefits;
  • identify recommended resource management actions to protect or restore wild Atlantic salmon, their habitats, and ecosystems in order to achieve these objectives;
  • establish biological, social, and economic performance indicators; and
  • establish timeframes and priorities for actions.

Consistent with the goal and objectives of this policy, Regional IFMPs, addressing management objectives and measures at the SMA level, will be designed to safeguard the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon, their habitat and ecosystems, and result in fisheries that are managed for sustainable benefits. To do this, the plans will need to address the causes of any declines and identify the resource management actions necessary to remedy them where possible. The preferred long-term outcome of the plans will be healthy habitat and ecosystems and above their higher benchmarks. But as a minimum, the plans should aim to maintain and restore populations in SMAs above their established lower benchmarks with an acceptable degree of certainty within a defined timeframe. The development of these plans will require choices. The reasons for decisions must be well documented and must explicitly consider uncertainties in not only the scientific information but also in the economic and social information that decision makers use.

Through participation in the development of the regional IFMPs, resource users, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders will work collectively towards a better understanding of fisheries management issues and challenges in developing a workable management plan. Everyone will have opportunities to input their traditional knowledge and influence the decision making process. The fisheries management objectives will, in part, be determined through input of resource users. In certain cases, the fisheries management control measures may be delivered by resource users themselves with fisheries management agencies performing an audit and verification function. This team approach will increase the understanding of the management plans by all parties and should generate greater support for compliance with the measures set out in the plans.

Action Step 4.2: Approval of IFMPs

The IFMP process seeks to engage the various interests in Atlantic salmon throughout the development of the plans – from the establishment of planning priorities through to the evaluation and selection of preferred management alternatives. This will explicitly encourage the pursuit of creative solutions and help to focus planning discussions on the relevant issues and considerations throughout the development of plans. This is intended to build consensus on the most appropriate management approach and facilitate public understanding of final management decisions.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is accountable to Parliament for the conservation of fisheries resources. Accordingly, IFMPs for salmon conservation and sustainable use will be subject to final approval by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans except in Quebec where approval lies with the Ministère des resources naturelles et de la faune.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will embark on an Atlantic Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Planning framework (Figure 6). Under the framework, multi-year IFMPs will be developed at DFO regional levels. Regional IFMPs will be presented annually at the Atlantic Salmon Advisory Committee (ASAC) and updated as required. This process will provide advice to the Minster in support of an Atlantic- wide management framework to address conservation and sustainable use of the resource, and international issues.

In addition to the multi-year regional IFMPs, annual fishing plans will be developed and implemented along provincial boundaries. Both IFMPs and annual fishing plans will be developed in consultation with Provincial Governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations and other stakeholders through Salmon Management Advisory Committees, where they already exist, or through the formation of them or similar consultative processes.

STRATEGY 5: PROGRAM DELIVERY

Strategy 4 provides a strategic framework and processes to achieve effective integrated fisheries management planning. Strategy 5 details the specific short-term actions that actually implement these general processes. Together, IFMPs and annual fishing plans will identify the activities to be undertaken to achieve both the short and longer term goals and objectives.

Action Step 5.1: Assess and monitor the status of populations.

Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy Implications: for DFO Science

  • Scientific programs will conform to modernization of management processes, i.e., shared responsibilities and ecosystem- based considerations in management.
  • Stock assessment programs will draw from existing monitoring programs to assess wild salmon at appropriate geographic scales.
  • In addition to assessments of the status of SMAs , an emphasis will be placed on understanding factors affecting freshwater and marine survival, and developing risk management tools to guide decision making.
  • More partnering will be necessary with the public, private groups, academia, and First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations to collect required data.

DFO will work in closer cooperation with provincial governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, academia, and other stakeholders. The Department will retain its leadership role but will at the same time share responsibility for monitoring and assessing the status of wild Atlantic salmon populations. Assessments will be based on field activities, draw from existing programs as required, identify necessary research and be accompanied by a peer review process.

Stock assessment work plans describing the assessment framework for SMAs and related activities will be updated annually for each DFO administrative region. DFO will strive to report work plans as part of a database that describes for each region, the major risk factors and changes to these factors, assessment strategies within the region, resource management objectives, enhancement activities, and benchmarks. DFO will also promote provision of open databases and sharing of relevant information so that threats or impacts can be identified and monitored.

Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy Implications: for DFO Fisheries Management

  • SMAs will be used to reference biological and management areas under this policy.
  • Fisheries management will focus first on SMAs , but where information permits, move progressively towards development of plans on a watershed basis.
  • Although management responsibilities will remain with DFO, there will be a higher degree of shared decision making with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, other stakeholders, and respective provincial governments, except in Québec where the management responsibility lies with the Province.

Action Step 5.2: Plan and monitor annual fisheries.

The specific annual management measures required by the multi-year IFMPs will be identified and documented in the annual fishing plans (Figure 6). These plans will include arrangements for food, social and ceremonial fisheries by First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, hook and release fishing and other regulatory measures that will be put in place, such as bag and possession limits and anticipated open and close times. Additional program activities could also be undertaken collaboratively among First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, other stakeholders, DFO and the relevant province in areas such as stock assessment, surveillance and habitat monitoring on watersheds within the SMAs .

Another element of annual fishing plans will be the development of explicit agreed-upon protocols for in-season decision making. The uncertainties and variations in fish availability associated with natural survival and the imprecision of in-season management cannot be eliminated, but they can be better accounted for. Management plans will strive to incorporate estimates of uncertainty and provide an adequate degree of confidence that management objectives will be met. The management responses to be taken in different circumstances will be more transparently identified and documented in advance of the fishing season. Important input on these decision rules will be sought from First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations as well as other stakeholders.

Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy Implications: Species at Risk

Management actions will be taken in advance of any assessment by COSEWIC. Actions before and subsequent to listing will:

  • Promote wild stock preservation[1] for specific time periods consistent with approved recovery strategies and action plans for SARA-listed and non-listed salmon populations considered at risk,
  • Promote research into, and the use of, the most effective methods of conducting preservation activities,
  • Directly contribute to meeting DFO’s legal obligations under SARA, i.e., restore and sustain-ably manage diverse salmon populations taking into account the specific objective for safeguarding genetic diversity, usually in CUs
  • Reduce any adverse socio-economic impacts that might arise from conservation actions required under SARA.

[1] Preservation refers to the use of fish culture, including Live Gene Banking and juvenile-to-adult grow-out in freshwater, to prevent extirpation of threatened or endangered salmon populations, to maintain biodiversity, and to rebuild specific populations (with unique characteristics) that are below the lower benchmark.

Essential to delivery is an integrated, effective, and balanced compliance and enforcement program. Both the IFMPs and annual fishing plans would identify priority conservation and compliance problems. Compliance programs would consist of an appropriate balance of promotion and enforcement.

Where possible, program activities in areas such as stock assessment, compliance and habitat monitoring in watersheds within the SMAs will be undertaken collaboratively between DFO, the relevant province, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders.

Action Step 5.3: Collaborate on river specific/ watershed multi-year approaches.

Under this policy, the Department recognizes the importance of partnering and collaborating with all those able to contribute to wild Atlantic salmon conservation. On this basis, and in addition to the IFMP process, DFO is committed to work collaboratively with community groups, provincial governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders towards the development of multi-year watershed management plans and shared activities. Where appropriate, DFO will enter into memoranda of understanding with provinces and community groups covering a particular watershed. In keeping with the Agreement on Interjurisdictional Cooperation with respect to Fisheries and Aquaculture (see Appendix 1). DFO will consult with provinces on key fisheries management plans and allocations and play an active role in encouraging and supporting community-based plans of this nature. In Québec, the Province takes the lead role in salmon management.

Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy Implications: for Salmon Enhancement (Fish Culture[1])

  • Enhancement initiatives will be reliant on the private sector, provincial governments, and First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations.
  • Hatcheries may be considered as a tool with which to provide harvest opportunities and fishery benefits as part of an integrated fisheries management plan.
  • The risks of hatchery production to wild salmon will be assessed through the development of a biological risk assessment framework.

[1] see Appendix 2 for more detail about the history of DFO’s enhancement/ fish culture program.

Community-based plans developed through these collaborative processes will have an integrated approach that can:

  • include activities like stock assessment; habitat assessment and remediation;
  • engage and evoke commitments from federal and provincial agencies, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations; recreational fishers and other stakeholders;
  • address socio-economic considerations; options for hook and release fisheries and other regulatory measures such as bag and possession limits, anticipated open and close times, warm water protocol, in season monitoring, etc.

Action Step 5.4: Plan and implement habitat management activities.

Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy Implications: for DFO Habitat Management

  • The Habitat Management Program is evolving to better link watershed protection and stewardship initiatives with fisheries management objectives by integrating habitat monitoring, assessment, and program planning at the SMA scale.
  • Habitat condition will be assessed through the development of indicators and benchmarks, and monitoring will be conducted to identify changes in habitat status over time, and to assess the effectiveness of regulatory interventions.
  • An integrated data system for the collection and dissemination of information on salmon habitat status will be supported though improved access between existing systems.
  • If specific populations within SMAs of wild salmon (and/ or their habitats) are threatened by development proposals or other human activities, appropriate actions will be taken as directed by the Policy for the management of fish habitat and relevant SARA recovery strategies/ action plans.

Habitat program work is shifting from being largely reactive to being planned and strategically directed in order to protect habitat and to implement management measures that meet the long-term objectives specified by Integrated Fisheries Management Planning (Strategy 4).

Strategy 2 will strive to identify habitats that underpin achievement of overall objectives for watersheds and SMAs . These will include habitats that are intact and require protection or habitats that are degraded and require restoration or rehabilitation. Annual work plans will strive to specify priorities for habitat rehabilitation or restoration work that should be undertaken by DFO or by DFO in partnering with others, and investigative work that may be undertaken to fill knowledge gaps. Plans should recognize the need for protection of the key habitats identified in Strategy 2 using tools appropriate to the circumstances. Planning for restoration and habitat improvement should incorporate priority projects identified in watershed management plans. Work would be carried out through the watershed management associations (First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, volunteers, and other stakeholders) or by DFO and would make use of more accessible data from a variety of sources.

On an annual basis, a report on regulatory functions related to key habitats and restoration and rehabilitation works will be targeted for preparation. Habitat assessment and monitoring will feed back into the Habitat Management Program to evaluate measures for habitat protection and compliance and to guide future program improvements in collaboration with community-based watershed groups. This new strategic approach to program delivery should ensure that salmon habitat protection objectives are better integrated with salmon management objectives at the watershed and SMA level, leading to improved habitat protection.

STRATEGY 6: PERFORMANCE REVIEW

A performance review of annual fishing plans will be conducted annually to determine if the goals and objectives of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy are being met. Performance review under this policy should be consistent with procedures which are adopted generally in integrated fisheries management planning throughout other regions in Canada. These procedures include evaluation which can provide guidance on policy changes required over both the short and long term. Action Step 6.1 provides an opportunity for annual feedback on the implementation of management measures taken as part of a salmon plan specified for fisheries, habitat, and assessment. This process evaluates whether progress is being made to try to achieve the objectives defined in the strategic plan for the watershed or SMA. Action Step 6.2 provides for periodic reviews of the overall success of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy in meeting its goal and objectives.

Action Step 6.1: Conduct post-season review of annual management plans.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans in consultation with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders will strive to conduct annual post-season reviews of the annual salmon management plans for fishing, habitat, stock assessment and preservation in order to:

  • Evaluate annual management plan implementation. For example, if a salmon management plan calls for a reduction in fishing season or a reduction in the daily bag limits or quotas, it is important to know if these management measures took place.
  • Evaluate compliance with management measures. Assessment of the level of compliance with management measures is essential to evaluate their success, for adjustment of management measures, and to identify priorities for various compliance program strategies.
  • Evaluate annual operational targets. For example, the operational targets may be to determine the exploitation rates in Aboriginal food, social and ceremonial fisheries and recreational fisheries and habitat rehabilitation with respective objectives of increasing the number of spawners and improving the habitat. This review process will try to evaluate if management targets were achieved and whether the measures were effective in meeting conservation objectives.
  • Recommend annual adjustments to the management plan.

Action Step 6.2: Conduct regular reviews of the success of the ‘Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy’.

An independent review of the success of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy in achieving its broad goals and objectives will be conducted within 5 years of its adoption. On the basis of the review, the implementation of the policy will be revised to address shortcomings that may be reducing its effectiveness.

IMPLEMENTATION – ‘MAKING IT ALL WORK’

The six strategies proposed in the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy represent a set of mutually dependent activities that must work together for the policy’s goal and objectives to be achieved. Since the individual strategies are not autonomous, successful implementation of each one of them is necessary to ensure the overall success of salmon resource management.

This new approach to salmon conservation is complex and the pace and effectiveness of implementation will be influenced by two key factors:

  1. Implementation must be accomplished within relevant agencies’ resource capability and incremental programming will have to be phased in over time.
  2. Implementation will depend on the effectiveness of the sharing of activities with Provincial Governments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, volunteers, other stakeholders and other federal agencies.

Full implementation will not be achieved overnight. Establishing this management and consultation process and allowing it to mature, will take time. The establishment of benchmarks, design of new assessment systems and eventually delineation of CUs will depend on the availability of resources, data and scientific capacity. In addition, the policy introduces new challenges for the conduct of ongoing programs, and ultimate success depends on effective delivery of the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s research, enforcement, and Aboriginal programs. All of these activities, ongoing and new, must be accomplished within existing resources. Accordingly, it must be emphasized that complete implementation will not be achieved instantaneously but will be phased in gradually.

The second requirement for implementation involves sharing of activities. The Department must adopt better cooperative arrangements and agreements with provinces, other government departments, First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, other stakeholders, and volunteers, collectively, for program delivery. It is clear that DFO cannot do it alone. No matter what DFO’s commitment is to implementing the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy, success will demand better collaboration with all of the groups and individuals having an interest in wild Atlantic salmon. All have important roles to play in achieving sustainable management of wild salmon and their habitat. These groups can and do monitor and report catches, protect and restore habitat, and carry out biological assessment work. Too often, this work is not integrated effectively with departmental activities, which can diminish its value or simply result in wasted effort and funds. More collaboration is required to develop data standards, and agree on methodologies if we are to get the full benefit from the financial and human resources that are collectively dedicated to salmon stewardship. Improved cooperation with partners will be an important ingredient for future success. The more transparent process for decision making underlying this policy will ensure that we are better equipped to achieve this important outcome.

The Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy will transform the approach to conserving Atlantic salmon, their habitat, and dependent ecosystems. It is intended to foster a more robust resource by conserving, protecting and restoring Atlantic salmon throughout Eastern Canada as well as recognizing the intrinsic value of salmon to society and to ecosystem functioning.

Key elements of the policy recognize that:

  1. Protection of the genetic and geographic diversity of salmon is necessary for their future evolutionary adaptation and long-term well-being.
  2. Shared stewardship in conjunction with carrying out mandated responsibilities provides the most efficient and effective use of resources to achieve conservation objectives. Resource management decision making has to be shared and undertaken using open and accountable public processes that are collaborative, inclusive and comprehensive.
  3. Future success in salmon conservation relies on use of freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats; the policy needs to address challenges in all three habitats. Habitat requires effective protection and rehabilitation if salmon are to prosper. Such actions require partnered approaches with provinces and others.
  4. Ecosystems must be considered in management decision making to foster the conservation of salmon in an increasingly uncertain future.
  5. Management must be based on good scientific information and consider biological, social, and economic consequences.

The goal, objectives, principles, and strategies that underpin the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy represent a new way of doing business. Moving ahead will require a redirection of the Department’s energy and resources along with a commitment to embrace and advance new practices. Success will also require the cooperation of all who have an interest in the conservation of Atlantic salmon. We are confident that making these changes is a wise investment that will yield a brighter future for Atlantic salmon and the Canadians who enjoy them.

GLOSSARY

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK). Includes but is not limited to the knowledge Aboriginal peoples have accumulated about wildlife species and their environment. Much of this knowledge has accumulated over many generations.

Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are the only species of the genus Salmo, that are native to northeastern North America. There are both landlocked/ freshwater and sea-run forms; only the sea-run form of Atlantic Canada and Québec is considered in this policy. Landlocked Atlantic salmon, (S. salar) var. known as landlocks, ouananiche or Sebago salmon are restricted in size, numbers, and distribution to a relatively small number of lakes in the northeastern USA, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and Québec and not considered in this policy. The other member of the genus Salmo is the brown trout (Salmo trutta) which was introduced from Europe in the 1880’s, and is widely distributed in North America. Unlike European salmon rivers there are few salmon rivers in Atlantic Canada that support readily measurable populations of brown trout.

Aquaculture. The farming of aquatic organisms in the marine or freshwater environments.

Biodiversity or biological diversity. The full range of variety and variability within and among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur; and the diversity they encompass at the ecosystem, community, species, and genetic levels; and the interaction of these components.

Client. A citizen or group who is directly affected by the department’s programs and activities and could be affected by DFO decisions socio-economically or on other matters.

Community. A group of people living in a particular area.

Conservation. The protection, maintenance, and rehabilitation of genetic diversity, species, and ecosystems to sustain biodiversity and the continuance of evolutionary and natural production processes.Footnote34

Conservation Limit. “A target egg deposition rate of 2.4 eggs/m2 of fluvial rearing habitat, and in addition for insular Newfoundland, 368 eggs/hectare of lacustrine habitat. The 2.4 eggs/ m2 reference level is assumed to provide a modest margin of safety for some instream adult losses between the time salmon enter into a river and subsequent spawning, as well as for disproportionate adult exploitation and unequal rate of recruitment of the multiple stocks comprising a river stock complex. CAFSAC (Canadian Atlantic Fisheries Scientific Advisory Committee) considers that the further the spawning escapement is below the biological reference level, and the longer this situation occurs even at rates only slightly below that level, the greater the possibility exists of incurring risks which may cause irreversible damage to the stock.”Footnote35 The 2.4 eggs/ m2 reference level is here-in treated as the lower benchmark. Similar benchmarks but at different levels have been established for rivers in Québec and Newfoundland (accounting for production in lacustrine habitat). All have been regarded as proxies for the level of spawners which would result in the maximum sustained yield (MSY) or ‘conservation limit’. The higher benchmark identifies a management target with the intention of providing optimum use of the resource and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. This level may change through time but there would be a near negligible probability of losing the population(s) and SMA.

Conservation Unit (CU). A group of wild salmon sufficiently isolated from other groups that, if extirpated, is very unlikely to re-colonize naturally within an acceptable timeframe.

Deme. A group of salmon at a persistent spawning site or within a stream comprised of individuals that are likely to breed with each other (i.e., well mixed). A single population may include more than one deme.

Ecosystem. A community of organisms and their physical environment interacting as an ecological unit.

Enhancement. The application of biological and technical knowledge and capabilities to increase the productivity of Atlantic salmon that are already meeting or exceeding the lower benchmark. It may be achieved by altering habitat attributes (e.g., habitat restoration) or by using fish culture techniques.

Escapement. The number of returning mature salmon that spawn.

Extirpation. The local extinction of a species.

Fish habitat. Spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply, and migration areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly to carry out their life processes.

Genetic diversity. The variation at the level of individual genes, and provides a mechanism for populations to adapt to their ever-changing environment. It refers to the differences in genetic make-up between distinct species and to genetic variations within a single species.

Geographic diversity. Spatial variability observed within a species. This variation may have a genetic basis and/or may reflect habitat and developmental differences expressed by the species.

Habitat Compliance Modernization. Habitat Compliance Modernization (HCM) provides a framework to deliver an integrated and adaptive compliance program organized around the degree of risk to fish habitat to ensure that the Habitat Management Program’s compliance activities are strategic, innovative, and predictable.

Index River. An index river is comprised of fish from one or more persistent spawning locations or populations that are assumed to be representative of some aspect of an SMA. An index river may be an index site or stream selected to detect annual changes in abundance and/or survival, or a Level 3 (see Action Step 1.2) site or stream selected to monitor species distribution and general habitat status. The overall status of salmon in the aggregate SMA is inferred, in part, by comparing measures of abundance gathered by monitoring the index river to benchmarks.

Integrated Fisheries Management Planning (IFMP). The IFMP is both a process and a document, with the primary purpose being to provide a planning framework for the conservation and sustainable use of fish resources. As a process, it allows for enhanced input by First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, resource users and other stakeholders into decisions about conservation measures and other issues. It also requires that the activities of the relevant sectors within the Department are incorporated into the management planning. As a document, the IFMP provides a clear and concise summary of the fish resource status and ecosystem considerations, any fisheries on that resource, the management objectives for the resource, the management and conservation measures used to achieve those objectives and the criteria by which attainment of objectives will be measured.

Juvenile salmon. Salmon in freshwater, previous to the smolt stage.

Live gene banking. The process of maintaining a genetically diverse collection of individuals representative of a population for use in selective breeding or as part of a population conservation program.

Maximum sustainable yield (MSY;). The largest catch (yield) that can be taken on average from a population under existing environmental conditions. Catch will vary annually due to variation in a population’s survival rate.

Mitigation. Actions taken during the planning, design, construction, and operation of works and undertakings to alleviate potential adverse effects on the productive capacity of fish habitats.

Partner. A group which the department collaborates on the development of policies and programs, which, for the purposes of consultations generally includes other federal departments and other provincial or territorial governments.

Population. A group of interbreeding organisms that is relatively isolated from other such groups and is likely adapted to the local habitat.

Precautionary approach. In the context of harvest decision-making in those fisheries managed by DFO, the term refers to a specific set of science and management components and general rules that are required for implementing a harvest strategy consistent with the precautionary approach, as described in the following two documents: “A Fishery Decision-making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach, (DFO, 2009)”; and “A Harvest Strategy Compliant with the Precautionary Approach. (DFO CSAS, 2006/023).” Used generally, the term refers to being cautious when scientific information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate and not using the absence of scientific information as a reason to postpone or fail to take action to avoid serious harm to a resource. It is intended to promote actions that would result in a low probability of harm that is serious or difficult to reverse.

Productive capacity. The maximum natural capability of habitats to produce healthy fish, or to support or produce aquatic organisms on which fish depend.

Restoration (of habitats). The treatment or clean-up of fish habitat that has been altered, disrupted or degraded for the purpose of increasing its capability to sustain a productive fisheries resource.

Resource management. Resource management: Actions, policies or programs, implemented by the Department or other managing bodies, that has an intended direct or indirect effect on resource status.

Riparian zone and functions. The area of vegetation near streams is known as the riparian zone. Riparian function includes the interaction of hydrologic, geomorphic, and biotic processes within the riparian environment that determine the character of the riparian zone and the influences exerted on the adjacent aquatic and terrestrial environments (e.g., temperature controls, shading).

Risk Management Framework. A framework to categorize the risks to fish and fish habitat associated with development proposals. This Framework allows, for example, DFO’s Habitat Management or Conservation & Protection programs to focus efforts on regulating monitoring those activities with the greatest potential impact to fish and fish habitat.

Selective harvesting. A conservation-based management approach that allows for the harvest of surplus fish within a population or Conservation Unit while aiming to minimize or avoid the fishing for salmon of conservation concern, or to release any bycatch unharmed.

Shared stewardship. The sharing of efforts towards conservation, responsibility for decision making and accountability for the outcome of such decisions.

Smolt. A juvenile salmon that has completed rearing in freshwater and migrates into the marine environment. A smolt becomes physiologically capable of balancing salt and water in the estuary and ocean waters. Smolts vary in age and somewhat in size depending on the environment in which they were reared.

Species. The fundamental category of taxonomic classification consisting of organisms grouped by virtue of their common attributes and capable of interbreeding. A taxonomic species is equivalent to the term “species” but the phrase may be used to indicate the collective species throughout its distribution.

Stakeholder. A person, group or agency that has a direct interest in an issue for which the department has a mandate or legal responsibility, and may or may not be directly affected by the department’s programs and activities (also see clients above).

Stewardship. Acting responsibly to conserve fish and their habitat for present and future generations.

Stock assessment. The use of various statistical and mathematical models to determine the status of a population. Quantitative predictions about the reactions of populations to management choices are often part of an assessment.

Sustainable Development. Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.Footnote36

Sustainable Use and Benefit. The use of resources in a way and at a rate that does not lead to their long-term decline, thereby maintaining the potential for future generations to meet their needs and aspirations. Sustainable use refers to consumptive uses of biological resources.Footnote37 Sustainable benefits, in the other hand, derive from a broader range of consumptive and non-consumptive resource uses.

Watershed. The area contributing water to a selected point along a stream channel. The term is interchangeable with ‘drainage basin’ and not to be confused with the drainage divide.

Wild Atlantic salmon. Salmon are considered “wild” if they have spent their entire life cycle in the wild and/or originate from parents that were also produced by natural spawning and/or continuously lived in the wild. In situations where Atlantic Salmon stocks are being recovered through a Live Gene Banking (LGB) process (protection of genetic diversity) to reestablish populations, that are listed or at risk of extirpation, the progeny of these facilities are considered “wild” salmon.

REFERENCES

Amiro, P.G. 2000. Assessment of the status, vulnerability and prognosis for Atlantic salmon stocks of the Southern Upland of Nova Scotia. Can. Stock Assess. Sec. Res. Doc. 2000/062.

Anon 1986. Strategies for the Long-Term Management of Atlantic Salmon. Report of the Special Federal/Provincial Atlantic Salmon Working Group. 35p.

Brundtland, G. (Ed.) 1987. Our Common Future: The World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

CAFSAC 1991. Definition of conservation for Atlantic salmon. Can. Atl. Fish. Adv. Com. Adv. Doc. 91/15: 4p.

Cairns, D.K. (Ed.) 2001. An evaluation of possible causes of the decline in pre-fishery abundance of North American Atlantic salmon. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. No. 2358: 67p.

Chadwick, E.M.P. and R.G.Randall. 1993. Production of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in fresh water and at sea at high and low densities. Ecol. Freshw. Fish 2: 67-72.

Colbourne, E., C. Fitzpatrick, D. Senciall, P. Stead, W. Bailey, J. Craig, and C. Bromley. 2004. An assessment of the physical oceanographic environment on the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelf during 2003. Can. Sci. Adv. Sec. Res. Doc. 2004: 22p.

Crozier, W.W., P-J. Schon, G. Chaput, E.C.E. Potter, N.O’Maoileidigh, and J.C. MacLean. 2004. Managing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in the mixed stock environment: challenges and considerations. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 61: 1344-1358.

DFO. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). 2005 A Policy Framework for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon.

_____. 2002a. Guidelines for Developing a Fisheries Management Plan (draft June 2002). Ottawa: DFO.

_____. 2002b. Canada’s Oceans Strategy: Our Oceans, Our Future. Ottawa: DFO.

_____. 2002c. Aquaculture Policy Framework. Ottawa: DFO.

_____. 2001a. Building Awareness and Capacity: An Action Plan for Continued Sustainable Development 2001- 2003. Ottawa: DFO.

_____. 2001b. Fisheries Management Policies on Canada’s Atlantic Coast. Ottawa: DFO.

_____. 2000. The Effects of Acid Rain on the Atlantic Salmon of the Southern Upland of Nova Scotia. DFO Maritimes Regional Habitat Status Report. 2000/2E: 19p.

_____. 1999. Framework and Guidelines for Implementing the Co-Management Approach. Vol. II: Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (draft January 1999). Ottawa: DFO.

_____. 1998. Atlantic Salmon Abundance Overview for 1997. DFO Science Stock Status Report. DO-02. 21p.

_____. 1986. Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat. Fish Habitat Management Branch. Ottawa: DFO. 28p.

Dunfield, R.W. 1985. The Atlantic salmon in the history of North America. Can. Spec. Publ. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 80: 181p.

Environment Canada. 1995. Canadian Biodiversity Strategy: Canada’s Response to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Hull: Biodiversity Convention Office.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 1995. Precautionary approach to fisheries; Part 1: Guidelines on the precautionary approach to capture fisheries and species introductions. FAO Technical Paper 350/1. Rome: FAO. 52p. Also reprinted in 1996 with the same title, but in the series FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries No. 2: 60p.

Grumbine, R.E. 1994. What is ecosystem management? Conserv. Biol. 8: 27-38.

Hansen, L.P. and T.P. Quinn. 1998. The marine phase of the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) life cycle, with comparisons to Pacific salmon. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 55(Suppl. 1): 104-118.

Hilborn, R. and C.J. Walters. 1992. Quantitative fisheries stock assessment: choice, dynamics and uncertainty. Chapman and Hall New York and London, xvi + 570p.

King, T.L., S.T. Kalinowski, W.B. Schill, A.P. Spidle, and B.A. Lubinski. 2001. Population structure of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.): a range wide perspective from microsatellite DNA variation. Mol. Ecol. 10: 807-821.

Mace, P.M., (Chair), S.X. Cadrin, R.E. Crabtree, G.H. Darcy, J.H. Dunnigan, A.Z. Zetakaru, A.D. MacCall et al. 2003. Report of the NMFS National Standard 1 Guidelines Working Group. Silver Spring MD: National Marine Fisheries Service, November. NOAA Policy Directive System 04-106-01 Available at http://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/index.cfm.

Mangel, M., L.M. Talbot, G. K. Meffe, M.T. Agardy, D.L. Alverson, J. Barlow, D.B. Botkin, et al. 1996. Conservation of wild living resources. Ecol. Appl. 6: 338-362.

Nielsen, J.L. 1998. Population genetics and the conservation and management of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci 55 (Suppl. 1): 145-152.

NRC (National Research Council). 2004. Atlantic salmon in Maine. The National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 275p.

NRC (National Research Council). 2002. Genetic Status of Atlantic salmon in Maine. Interim report. The National Academy Press Washington, DC. 62p.

Olver, C.H., B.J. Shuter, and C.K. Minns. 1995. Toward a definition of conservation principles for fisheries management. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 52: 1584-1594.

O'Reilly, P. and A. Cox. In prep. Genetic structuring among Maritime Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) inferred from microsatellite genetic markers. (In preparation)

Potter, T. 2001. Past and present use of reference points for Atlantic salmon. pp 195-223 In E. Prevost and G. Chaput (eds) Stock, Recruitment and Reference Points – Assessment and Management of Atlantic Salmon. Hydrobiologie et aquaculture, INRA, Paris: 223p.

Shuter, B.J., C.K. Minns, and C.H. Olver. 1997. Reply: Toward a definition of conservation principles for fisheries management. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 54: 2724-2725.

Vermette, M. and J. Rice. 2004. Proceedings of the National Meeting on Applying the Precautionary Approach in Fisheries Management. Ottawa: Can. Sci. Adv. Sec. February.

Verspoor, E., M. O’Sullivan, A.L. Arnold, D. Knox, and P.G. Amiro. 2002. Restricted matrilineal gene flow and regional differentiation among Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) populations within the Bay of Fundy, Eastern Canada. Heredity 89: 465-472.

Verspoor, E. 2005. Regional differentiation of North American Atlantic salmon at allozyme loci. J. Fish Biol. 67 (Supp. A): 80-103.

Verspoor, E., J.A. Beardmore, S. Consuegra, C. García de Leániz, K. Hindar, W.C. Jordan, M. L. Koljonen, A.A. Mahkrov, T. Paaver, J.A. Sánchez, Ø. Skaala, S. Titov, and T.F. Cross. 2005. Population structure in the Atlantic salmon: insights from 40 years of research into genetic protein variation. J. Fish Biol. 67 (Supp. A): 3-54.

Verspoor, E., L. Stradmeyer, and J. Nielsen, (Eds.) 2007. The Atlantic Salmon: Genetics, Conservation and Management. London. Blackwell. 500p.

APPENDIX 1: LEGAL AND POLICY BACKGROUND

DFO exercises the following mandate with respect to fisheries and other responsibilities:

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for policies and programs in support of Canada's economic, ecological and scientific interests in oceans and inland waters; for the conservation and sustainable utilization of Canada's fisheries resources in marine and inland waters; for leading and facilitating federal policies and program on oceans; and for safe effective and environmentally sound marine services responsive to the needs of Canadians in a global economy.”Footnote38

This appendix outlines some of the key legislation, national and international agreements, and programs and policies with particular implications for the conservation and management of wild Atlantic salmon.

Legislation

The Fisheries Act is the primary legislative basis for fisheries management in Canada. It authorizes the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to make decisions about the conservation of fisheries resources and habitat, to establish and enforce standards for conservation, and to determine access to and allocation of the resource. Section 35 (prohibiting the harmful alternation, disruption, and destruction, or HADD, of fish habitat) and Section 36 (prohibiting the deposit of deleterious substances into waters frequented by fish) confer strong powers to protect fish habitat.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) came into force in 1995 and was amended in November 2003. A Federal authority must conduct the environmental assessment of a project when it is the proponent of the project, it finances the project, it sells leases or otherwise disposes of federal lands or it issues a licence or a permit for the purpose of enabling the project to be carried out in whole or in part (section 5 of CEAA). Authorizations made under subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act are an example of a permit being issued for the purpose of enabling a project to be carried out. The CEAA process ensures that projects are considered in a careful and precautionary manner before federal authorities take action in connection with them, in order to ensure that such projects do not cause significant adverse environmental effects. CEAA determines what kind of assessment a project should undergo, but generally speaking, smaller and routine projects typically undergo a “screening” assessment, while larger and environmentally sensitive projects undergo a more intensive “comprehensive study”. Referrals to a mediator or a review panel are also options under CEAA.

In 1997, the Oceans Act extended the Department’s role in managing the use of marine resources and habitats. It called for the development of a national oceans management strategy guided by the principles of sustainable development, integrated management and an ecosystem perspective. Integrated management is a collaborative approach to decision making that aims to balance the various interests in the marine and coastal environment, while incorporating conservation requirements. Ecosystem-based fisheries management considers the interactions among species and their environment, as well as the impact of fishing on the ecosystem. Canada’s Oceans StrategyFootnote39 released in 2002 defines an oceans-centred planning framework that combines these principles.

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed in June 2003, fulfilling a key national commitment under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (see below). The purposes of the Act are to prevent aquatic wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of aquatic wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage aquatic species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened. As one of three federal departments and agencies charged with SARA’s implementation, DFO is responsible for such activities as: enforcement of contraventions to any prohibitions; development of recovery strategies, action plans and management plans; planning and implementation of critical habitat protection; and conducting of consultations within specified timelines.

Guidance from the Courts Regarding Aboriginal Fishing Issues

DFO seeks to manage fisheries, including Aboriginal fisheries, in a manner consistent with R. v. Sparrow and subsequent decisions of the courts.

As the Supreme Court of Canada stated in its 1996 decision in R. v. Van der PeetFootnote40, an aboriginal right is a practice, custom, or tradition that was integral to the distinctive culture of an Aboriginal group at the time of contact between that group and Europeans. Accordingly, Aboriginal rights, by their very nature, have existed for a very long time.

Although Aboriginal and treaty rights have existed in Canada for a very long time, those rights were not protected by the Constitution of Canada until 1982. In that year, Section 35 was added to the Constitution. Section 35 states that existing Aboriginal and treaty rights are “recognized and affirmed”.

Starting with its 1990 decision in R. v. Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada has described a framework for the analysis of Aboriginal and treaty rights issues. The first step in the analysis is to determine whether an Aboriginal or treaty right can be established. If a right is established, the next step is to determine whether it has been infringed. If the right has been infringed, the court will consider whether the infringement can be justified. Courts continue to emphasize that analysis of Aboriginal and treaty rights issues must be done on a case by case basis.

With respect to the establishment of Aboriginal rights, the most important decision to date is the 1996 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Van der Peet. The Court held in that decision that an Aboriginal right is a practice, custom or tradition that was integral to the distinctive culture of an Aboriginal group claiming the right at the time of contact between that group and Europeans. In its 1997 decision in Delgamuukw v. BCFootnote41, the Supreme Court of Canada clarified that Aboriginal title, i.e. a right of exclusive use and occupation, is a type of Aboriginal right and set out the test for establishing Aboriginal title.

In its decision in R. v. Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the following factors should be considered in assessing whether or not a limitation (such as an action or decision) infringes an Aboriginal or treaty right:

  • Does the limitation impose “undue hardship”?
  • Is the limitation unreasonable?
  • Does the limitation deny the holder of the right the “preferred means” of exercising the right?

If an Aboriginal group establishes a right, and that it has been infringed, the onus shifts to the Crown to justify the infringement. In R. v. Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that “federal power must be reconciled with federal duty and the best way to achieve that reconciliation is to demand the justification of any government regulation that infringes upon or denies aboriginal rights”.

With respect to justifying infringements of rights to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, the Supreme Court of Canada held in R. v. Sparrow that the following factors should be considered:

  1. Is there a “valid legislative objective” (e.g. conservation)?
  2. Has the honour of the Crown been upheld?
    • Priority after conservation?
    • Adequate consultation?
    • As little infringement as possible?
    • Fair compensation (in a “situation of expropriation”)?

In its decision in R. v. Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada described a “valid legislative objective” as follows: “An objective aimed at preserving s. 35(1) rights by conserving and managing a natural resource, for example, would be valid. Also valid would be objectives purporting to prevent the exercise of Section. 35(1) rights that would cause harm to the general populace or to aboriginal peoples themselves, or other objectives found to be compelling and substantial.” In its 1996 decision in R. v. NikalFootnote42, the Court acknowledged that “conservation” can include measures to reasonably increase fish stocks.

In all of the decisions in which the issue of priority has been considered, courts have carefully assessed the often complex facts relating to the how the Aboriginal, commercial, and recreational fisheries were managed in the circumstances. It is clear that consideration of the issue of priority will always involve a detailed “case by case” analysis of the relevant facts.

With respect to consultation issues, significant guidance was provided by the Supreme Court of Canada in late 2004 in its decision in Haida v. BCFootnote43. In that decision, the Court ruled that the Crown has a legal duty to consult with First Nations and, depending on the strength of the claim of Aboriginal rights or Aboriginal title and the seriousness of the potential adverse effect of a decision on the claimed rights or title, accommodate their interests when the Crown has knowledge of the potential existence of an Aboriginal right or Aboriginal title and is making decisions that might adversely affect the right or title. The Court held that scope of the duty will vary depending on the circumstances, including the strength of a First Nation’s claim respecting the Aboriginal right or Aboriginal title and the potential impact of the government’s decision on the claimed right or title. It is significant that, in its decision in Haida v. BC, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the Crown’s legal duty to consult with an Aboriginal group can arise even before the group establishes any Aboriginal rights or Aboriginal title.

In its 1999 decision in R. v. MarshallFootnote44Footnote45, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a treaty right to hunt, fish, and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood based on local treaties signed in the 18th century. The Court affirmed that government can regulate the exercise of the right, subject to the requirement to justify infringements on the basis of conservation or other compelling and substantial objectives. The Court also encouraged the government and First Nations to negotiate rather than litigate to resolve issues around the treaty right. Following the Marshall decision, DFO introduced an initiative to provide the 34 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations in the Maritimes and Gaspé Region of Québec affected by the decision with increased access to the commercial fishery

Agreements

Canada was the first industrialized nation to ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity signed by more than 150 countries at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Convention has three main goals: (1) the conservation of biodiversity; (2) sustainable use of the components of biodiversity; and (3) fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from commercial and other use of genetic resources. In terms of defining at what level biodiversity should be conserved, it advocates the conservation of genes, species and ecosystems, without providing guidance on which one should receive priority.

In 1996, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, except Québec, signed the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada. Under this agreement, the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council was created to determine responses to assessments made by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the independent body of scientists responsible for designating the status of species.

In 2006, Canada and Quebec signed the Cooperation Agreement for the Protection and Recovery of Species at Risk in Quebec to ensure a consistent, complimentary approach to the implementation of SARA by establishing procedures and formal structures for coordination and recovery activities and to avoid duplication. For instance, should a population of Atlantic Salmon in the Québec region be designated as a species at risk, the Cooperation Agreement would assist in the exchange of information regarding Atlantic salmon including the conservation, management and scientific knowledge on the species.

The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO)Footnote46 was established under the Convention for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean (the Convention) which became effective in 1983. NASCO includes as members, Canada, Denmark (in respect of the Faeroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia. Sweden, and the United States of America, the primary states of origin for salmon stocks in the North Atlantic. The objective of NASCO is to contribute, through consultation and cooperation, to the conservation, restoration, enhancement and rational management of salmon stocks subject to the Convention taking into account the best scientific evidence available. The Convention applies to salmon stocks which migrate beyond areas of fisheries jurisdiction of coastal states of the Atlantic Ocean north of 36°N latitude throughout their migratory range.

Policies and Programs

In 1986, DFO introduced the Policy for the Management of Fish HabitatFootnote47 to provide guidance to departmental staff, developers and the public on habitat conservation, restoration and development. The policy's overall objective is a net gain in the productive capacity of fish habitat, using the guiding principle of "no net loss" to ensure that habitat is conserved.

In 2004, the Habitat Management Program implemented a comprehensive continuous improvement plan intended to make the Habitat Management Program more effective in the conservation and protection of fish habitat by supporting fish species' and populations' resources most valued by Canadians. This continuous improvement approach aims to make the delivery of habitat services more efficient transparent, predictable and integrated with the priorities of governments and partners. Implementation of the approach is organized under six key elements:

  1. Risk Management Framework (RMF);
  2. Streamlining Referrals;
  3. Coherent and Predictable Decision Making;
  4. New Management Model for Environmental Assessment and Major Projects;
  5. Renewing Partnering; and
  6. Habitat Compliance Modernization

The Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) was launched in 1992 in part in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Sparrow decision on the Aboriginal food fishery.Footnote48 The AFS program is applicable where DFO manages the fishery and where land claims settlements have not already put a fisheries management regime in place. It seeks to provide for the effective management and regulation of fishing by Aboriginal communities through negotiation of mutually acceptable and time-limited agreements between the Department and First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations.

The Marshall Response Initiative (MRI) was introduced in 2000 in response to the 1999 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Marshall and sunset on March 31, 2007. Under the MRI, DFO sought to enter into fisheries agreements with the 34 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations in the Gaspé Region of Québec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia affected by the decision. The MRI was designed to increase First Nations’ access to the commercial fisheries. DFO signed MRI fisheries agreements with 32 of the 34 First Nations. These agreements provided for commercial fisheries access. The agreements may also have provided for assistance related to vessels and gear, training and other capacity-building, and other matters.

The Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management Program (AAROM), announced in October 2003 will help First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations acquire expertise to participate more effectively in processes for aquatic resources and oceans management.Footnote49 A major objective of AAROM is to provide these groups with the capacity to contribute to technical and advisory committees in areas of DFO responsibility, including fisheries and habitat management and oceans planning and management.

The Agreement on Interjurisdictional Cooperation signed in September 1999 by ministers from all Canadian jurisdictions (federal, provincial, and territorial) responsible for fisheries and aquaculture, has as its objective to foster a significant improvement in relations among the parties. It commits the parties to respect the principles of cooperation, including timely consultation with other jurisdictions, transparency, and collaboration to increase efficiency and effectiveness. As an example, under the Agreement, the federal government promised to consult the provinces on key fisheries management plans and allocations, and the provinces promised to consult other jurisdictions on legislation related to fish habitat, and initiatives related to the processing sector, fisheries licensing, and fisheries development.Footnote50

The Atlantic Salmon Endowment Fund was announced in the February 23, 2005 Budget as a one-time federal grant of $30 million to help achieve healthy and sustainable Atlantic salmon stocks in Atlantic Canada and Québec. It will operate using the annual yield from the $30 million capital amount and will be used to help watershed and community organizations working on a range of wild Atlantic salmon habitat, restoration, enhancement, monitoring and conservation initiatives.

A Policy Framework for the Management of Fisheries on Canada’s Atlantic Coast

Released in March, 2004, the Policy Framework was described as the first comprehensive blueprint to guide fisheries management on Canada’s Atlantic coast. It is the culmination of fisheries renewal efforts started under the first phase of the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review (AFPR). This policy framework offers a shared vision and a clear direction for how the Atlantic fisheries can be managed. Over time, as the role of resource users in the management of the fishery increases, the role of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will evolve from one taken up with day-to-day management of fleets and fishing activities to one concerned primarily with developing policy, setting direction and evaluating performance. The framework presents four interrelated objectives and corresponding strategies: conservation and sustainable use, self-reliance, a stable and transparent access and allocation approach, and shared stewardship.

Recreational Fisheries in Canada – an Operational Policy Framework

The framework was developed to provide a clear statement of Department of Fisheries and Oceans' roles and responsibilities in recreational fisheries, and to provide strategic guiding principles to govern how the Department will exercise its roles and responsibilities. In particular, the framework provides a clear point of departure for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to undertake cooperative initiatives with First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations, and other stakeholders.

A complex mix of federal, provincial and territorial legislative and management responsibilities for recreational fisheries has evolved over time. These responsibilities are based on judicial interpretations, as well as specific federal/ provincial/territorial agreements and Memoranda of Understanding. With respect to freshwater species, provinces and territories are generally responsible for: management of freshwater species (where delegated), licensing, enforcement, industry promotion and marketing.

The Framework contains five principles that will guide Fisheries and Oceans in its task to develop and implement recreational fisheries policies, programs and initiatives:

  • Recreational fishing is a socially and economically valuable and legitimate use of fishery resources;
  • Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for providing sustainable recreational harvesting opportunities as part of integrated fisheries management plans consistent with its policies;
  • Recreational harvesters have responsibility for shared stewardship for resource conservation and enhancement.
  • Mechanisms for federal/provincial cooperation in areas of shared jurisdiction will be established and strengthened
  • Fisheries and Oceans has a leadership role to coordinate policies/programs with the federal government which relate to recreational fishing.

APPENDIX 2: DFO FISH CULTURE IN THE MARITIMES

Hatcheries/ EnhancementFootnote51

Between the late 1860’s, and the 1990s, enhancement facilities in Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces and Québec were used to augment production of salmon for enhanced economic returns in the commercial and recreational fisheries. These practises were terminated by DFO in the 1990’s. Most hatcheries in the Maritimes and the associated enhancement opportunities were divested to not-for-profit stakeholders and an Aboriginal organization. The facility that remained and those of value that were returned to DFO are now focused on the maintenance of genetic diversity within those populations that are either listed as ‘endangered’ under the SARA or in the view of departmental staff have population trajectories which may lead to extirpation in the near future.

This change in policy direction within DFO did not, however, discourage (as borne out by the divestitures) the private sector, provincial governments, and First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations from maintaining or becoming involved in Atlantic salmon enhancement for social, economic or other reasons. DFO will continue to collaborate with private sector interests, provincial governments, and Aboriginal groups on salmon enhancement initiatives that require DFO licensing and to help ensure that the products for those enhancement initiatives are likely to meet DFO regulatory requirements for release into fish habitat.

Except in Québec, permission under the Fisheries Act or the Fisheries (General) Regulations is required to obtain wild fish for stocking or artificial breeding purposes. Releasing Atlantic salmon (eggs, larvae, or fish) into habitat is governed by the sections 55 and 56 of the Fishery (General) Regulations. These regulations are designed to minimize disease, genetic or other adverse affects that hatchery products may pose to wild fish stocks. In Québec, the release of live fish into fish habitat is governed by the Règlement sur l'aquaculture et la vente des poissons (Regulations Respecting Aquaculture and the Sale of Fish).

APPENDIX 3: AQUACULTURE

Since the last Atlantic salmon policy was developed in 1986, production of Atlantic salmon from East Coast aquaculture has expanded. With the closure of the last of the commercial fisheries by 2000, aquaculture is now the sole source of commercially available Atlantic salmon. In fact, the salmon aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada has expanded to earn $341 million in annual sales in 2006 and created 4,800 direct, indirect and induced jobs in rural and coastal communities.

Jurisdiction for the regulation of aquaculture is shared between the federal and provincial governments. The provision of aquaculture leases and the licensing of aquaculture operations in Atlantic Canada is the responsibility of the provincial governments, with the exception of P.E.I. where DFO issues leases on behalf of that Province. The Department’s role, as the lead federal agency for aquaculture, is to manage aquaculture so that it is environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and economically viable. This role is, in some respect, also a jurisdiction shared with provincial governments.

At the federal level, all aquaculture sites must undergo a review for potential fish habitat effects under Section 35 of the Fisheries Act. The review includes evaluation of information on the size, type and proposed practices of the farm combined with specific features of the site such as the benthic fish habitat present, water depth, and currents. The review is intended to assess the risk that the project poses to fish habitat and to ensure that all appropriate measures are in place to avoid and minimize fish habitat effects. As part of an adaptive management approach, ongoing monitoring is often required to ensure that mitigation measures are effective; this monitoring is often carried out in conjunction with provincial agencies.

The vast majority of marine fish farm sites also require a screening level environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment ActFootnote52 (CEAA). This environmental assessment must be completed prior to the issuance of a formal approval under the Navigable Waters Protection ActFootnote53 (NWPA), or a subsection 35(2) authorization under the Fisheries Act. The CEAA screening examines the potential environmental effects of the project on the natural environment, including the impacts on wild fish stocks, wildlife, and their habitats. Also considered are the potential cumulative effects of the project and other existing or proposed projects in the area that may have similar effects. A determination is made as part of the environmental assessment as to whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects taking into consideration all appropriate mitigation measures. Implementation of mitigation measures is often required as parts of environmental management plans and through adherence to Provincial regulations for fish health, escape prevention, sea lice monitoring and waste discharge. Only those projects that are unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, taking into account mitigation measures, are allowed to proceed through the issuance of federal approvals under the NWPA or the Fisheries Act.

In 2002, the Department released the Aquaculture Policy Framework (APF) to guide the Department’s actions with respect to aquaculture. The first principle of the APF directs the Department to support aquaculture development in a manner consistent with its commitments to ecosystem-based and integrated management, as set out in Departmental legislation, regulations, and policies. This principle reflects the Department’s sustainable development mandate.

DFO is seeking to set the conditions for the success of a more vibrant and innovative Canadian aquaculture sector that is environmentally and socially sustainable and internationally competitive for the benefit for all Canadians.

This will be achieved through focusing on the following four inter-related program elements:

  1. Governance and Regulatory Reform;
  2. Regulatory Science;
  3. Innovation; and
  4. Certification and Market Access.

The goal, principles, and objectives of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy will guide the regulatory actions of the Department. Aquaculture operations will be regulated in a manner consistent with other human activities that may adversely affect salmon or their habitat and DFO will continue to invest in research to improve our understanding and management of this industry.

FOOTNOTES

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Dunfield (1985). The Atlantic salmon in the history of North America.

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Footnote 2

Anon (1986). Strategies for the long term management of Atlantic salmon.

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Footnote 3

Species at Risk Act (SARA).

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Footnote 4

DFO (2005), Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (2005)

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Footnote 5

See http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo99/83066210_e.html for a press release describing the CCFAM.

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Footnote 6

Report of the Working Group on North Atlantic Salmon (2008), ICES CM 2008 ACOM:18 available at ICES Work - ACFM Working Group Reports

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Footnote 7

Anon (1986), Strategies for the long term management of Atlantic salmon.

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Footnote 8

DFO (1998), Atlantic Salmon Abundance Overview for 1997.

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Footnote 9

Cairns, D.K. (2001), An evaluation of possible causes of the decline in pre-fishery abundance of North American Atlantic salmon.

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Footnote 10

Oceans Act

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Footnote 11

DFO has implemented a new Aboriginal program called “Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management” (AAROM). It is intended to bring First Nations and other Aboriginal organizations together to address in aggregate a common watershed. This program is also available to Native Councils. The groups will provide an advisory service to their communities whom they represent in the areas of science, habitat, oceans management and resource management.

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Footnote 12

Fisheries Act

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Footnote 13

Constitution Act, 1867

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Footnote 14

Quebec Fishery Regulations, 1990)

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Footnote 15

Decision R. v. Sparrow, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1075.

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Footnote 16

Aquaculture is now the only source of ‘commercial’ Atlantic salmon in Canada (see Appendix 3)

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Footnote 17

See http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/s-15.3/text.html

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Footnote 18

Brundtland (1987), Our Common Future: The World Commission on Environment and Development.

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Footnote 19

References to text box on previous page: For further reading on biodiversity and Atlantic salmon, see for example: Verspoor et al (2005), Population Structure of the Atlantic salmon: insights from 40 years of research into genetic protein variation; NRC (2002), Genetic Status of Atlantic salmon in Maine; NRC (2004), Atlantic Salmon in Maine; Nielsen (1998) Population genetics and the conservation and management of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar; King et al (2001), Population structure of Atlantic salmon: a range wide perspective from microsatellite DNA variation.

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Footnote 20

See DFO (2005), A Policy Framework for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon.

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Footnote 21

For the purposes of this policy, a watershed is defined as the area contributing water to a selected point along a stream channel.

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Footnote 22

Mace et al (2003), Report of the NMFS National Standard I Guidelines Working Group; Vermette and Rice (2004), Proceedings of the National Meeting on Applying the Precautionary Approach in Fisheries Management; Crozier et al. (2004), Managing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in the mixed stock environment: challenges and considerations.

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Footnote 23

For further reading see Potter (2001), Past and present use of reference points for Atlantic salmon.

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Footnote 24

See Glossary for further discussion of “conservation limits”.

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Footnote 25

The values presented in these example criteria are for explanation only and do not limit any consideration of other values or other criteria that may be determined for a specific SMA.

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Footnote 26

Hilborn and Walters (1992), Quantitative fisheries stock assessment: choice, dynamics and uncertainty.

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Footnote 27

Chadwick and Randall (1993), Production of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in freshwater and at sea at high and low densities.

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Footnote 28

Hansen and Quinn (1998), The marine phase of the Atlantic salmon life cycle with comparisons to Pacific salmon.

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Footnote 29

See http://www.nasco.int/ for more detail about the IASRB .

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Footnote 30

See http://www.salmonatsea.com/ for more detail about the SALSEA

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Footnote 31

See the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (www.ipcc.ch/ ) and ICES Ocean Climate Status Reports http://info.ices.dk/marineworld/oceanclimate.asp

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Footnote 32

DFO (2009), Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) Guidance Document.

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Footnote 33

DFO (2009), Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) Guidance Document

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Footnote 34

For further details see Shuter et al. (1997), Grumbine (1994), Mangel et al. (1996)

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Footnote 35

CAFSAC (1991), Definition of Conservation for Atlantic salmon.

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Footnote 36

Brundtland (1987), Our Common Future: The World Commission on Environment and Development.

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Footnote 37

Environment Canada (1995), Canadian Biodiversity Strategy: Canada’s Response to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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Footnote 38

DFO (2001a), Building Awareness and Capacity: An Action Plan for Continued Sustainable Development 2001-2003.

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Footnote 39

DFO (2002b), Canada’s Oceans Strategy: Our Oceans, Our Future.

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Footnote 40

See http://scc.lexum.org/en/1996/1996rcs2-507/1996rcs2-507.html

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Footnote 41

See http://scc.lexum.org/en/1997/1997rcs3-1010/1997rcs3-1010.html

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Footnote 42

See http://scc.lexum.org/en/1996/1996rcs1-1013/1996rcs1-1013.html

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Footnote 43

See http://scc.lexum.org/en/2004/2004scc73/2004scc73.html

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Footnote 44

See http://scc.lexum.org/en/1999/1999rcs3-456/1999rcs3-456.html

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Footnote 45

See http://scc.lexum.org/en/1999/1999rcs3-533/1999rcs3-533.html

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Footnote 46

http://www.nasco.int

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Footnote 47

DFO (1986), Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat.

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Footnote 48

See http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/aboriginal-autochtones/afs-srapa-eng.htm.

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Footnote 49

See http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/aboriginal-autochtones/aarom-pagrao/index-eng.htm.

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Footnote 50

DFO (2001b), Fisheries Management Policies on Canada’s Atlantic Coast.

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Footnote 51

Enhancement refers to the use of fish culture techniques to increase the production of Atlantic salmon populations that are already meeting or exceeding the lower benchmark.

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Footnote 52

See “http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-15.2/FullText.html” for text of the CEAA.

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Footnote 53

See “http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/N-22/FullText.html” for text of the NWPA

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