Salmon At Sea Program - Collaborative Science to Help Nurture Atlantic Salmon

The Atlantic salmon's life-cycle involves major migrations between spawning rivers and oceanic feeding grounds. While research on the freshwater phase of the life-cycle has revealed much about factors affecting juvenile production, considerably less is known about the salmon's life at sea.

Over the last 30 years, monitoring in rivers around the North Atlantic has confirmed that there has been a significant decline in overall marine survival of Atlantic salmon. Canadian scientists, along with their counterparts in the United States and Europe, are trying to understand why. Simply put, this knowledge will lead to better management of the Atlantic salmon and our ability to rebuild stocks.

The efforts of these scientists are being coordinated through the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization a regional fisheries body to which Canada is a Party. At the June 2014 North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization annual meeting held in France, the International Atlantic Salmon Research Board submitted a resolution to NASCO (ICR 14(10)) re-affirming its commitment to fostering collaborations in research identified in the Salmon At Sea Program.

Salmon At Sea Program draws together partners from across the North Atlantic, pooling intellectual and scientific resources under the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization guidance in a determined effort to understand the  causes of marine mortality of Atlantic salmon. The project attempts to answer questions on how Atlantic salmon use the ocean, where they go, how they use ocean currents and the ocean's food resources, and what factors influence migration and distribution at sea.

In 2008 to 2010, North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization members collectively invested over $10 million in monitoring and research projects in estuarine, coastal and oceanic areas to better understand the marine ecology of Atlantic salmon. In recent years, Canada and its partners have invested over $2.5 million annually on projects that include monitoring of sea survival, distribution and migration of salmon in the sea, life history processes, and natural and human-based factors affecting sea survival. This includes important research being conducted by non-government organizations in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

One notable example is the ongoing research by the Atlantic Salmon Federation into survival in estuaries and nearshore areas of Atlantic smolts from four major rivers in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence at a cost of about $1.2 million annually of non-government organizations and government investments. This project is part of the larger Oceans Tracking Network initiative which began with a $35-million investment by the Government of Canada via the Canadian Fund for Innovation, supplemented by an additional $10 million from the Canadian National Science and Engineering Research Council.

Salmon At Sea Program initiatives mirror work that has been underway for some time under the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission on Pacific salmon. As there is much that can be learned from the work on Pacific salmon, Canada has encouraged exchanges on science between North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization.

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