Atlantic Salmon (Gaspé-Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population - DU12)

Salmo salar

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The Atlantic salmon has a fusiform body shape that is somewhat compressed laterally and has an average length of about 457 mm. Its back is blue-green, its sides are silvery with several markings that are either round or x-shaped, and its belly is white. During the reproduction period, the Atlantic salmon loses its silver colour and takes on a greenish or reddish hue; a few large, white-edged spots then appear on its sides.

Habitat

Atlantic salmon spawn in fresh water, generally in their native river. Juveniles spend one to eight years in fresh water before migrating to salt water in the North Atlantic. After staying at sea for one to four years, adults return to fresh water to spawn. Salmon rivers are generally clear, cool and well oxygenated, with gravel, cobble and boulder substrates.

Because Atlantic salmon have a high degree of fidelity to their natal rivers and given their adaptation to the stream they frequent (e.g., difference in morphology, life cycle and behaviour), the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has identified 16 designatables units (DU) of Atlantic Salmon, 11 of which are considered at risk. Atlantic salmon of the Gaspe-Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population (DU12) reproduce in the tributaries of the river's south shore and of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, more specifically between the Sud-Ouest River in Quebec and the rivers in the northern tip of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. This population has 78 known salmon rivers.

Threats

The causes of the widespread decline of Atlantic salmon are not well understood. Several major reviews have attempted to identify and prioritize the causes of this situation. The low rate of survival at sea was cited as the primary cause of the decline. The populations are also threatened by climatic changes and environmental changes in the ocean; Aboriginal, recreational and illegal fishing; obstacles in fresh water (e.g. dams); agriculture; urbanization; aquaculture and invasive species. In some cases, the habitat used for freshwater spawning is degraded.

In the Gaspe–Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population, the number of small (that spent one winter at sea) and large (that spent more than one winter at sea) individuals decreased over the past three generations. This represents a decline of approximately 28% in the total number of mature individuals. This recent decline over the past three generations represents the continuation of a decline that dates back to at least the 1980s. There are still over 100,000 mature individuals but most of them spawn in New Brunswick's Miramichi River. Freshwater habitat quality is cause for concern in some areas, particularly in Prince Edward Island where some remaining populations are maintained by hatchery supplementation. Invasive species and illegally introduced species also constitute a threat that is poorly understood.

Further Information

The Atlantic salmon commercial fishery was closed progressively in Canadian waters from the mid-1980s until the complete closure in 2000. Aboriginal peoples continue to fish in several salmon rivers for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Salmon represents an important cultural tradition to which they attach great value. Lastly, recreational fishing is still authorized. Restrictive management measures are imposed for each river based on abundance estimates. These measures include catch limits, mandatory release of large salmon to the water, and closures of certain watercourses. Salmon habitat is protected under the fish habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.

Visit the Species at Risk (SARA) Public Registry.

Atlantic Salmon (Gaspé-Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population - DU12)

Atlantic Salmon

Scientific name: Salmo salar
SARA Status: No Status
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern (November 2010)
Region: Quebec and Maritimes

Distribution map

Map of Atlantic salmon designable unit 12 which includes Salmon Fishing Areas 15, 16, 17 and 18 in the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec Salmonid Zones Q1, Q2 and Q3).

Distribution range for the Gaspé-southern Gulf of St.Lawrence population of Atlantic Salmon.

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