Engagement on Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Strategy: What we heard summary
Since July 2021, the Department has conducted more than 50 meetings with participants representing over 75 organizations. To capitalize on and respect existing local relationships between DFO and Indigenous peoples, Indigenous organizations, partners and stakeholders, discussions were hosted by DFO regional staff across the range of wild Atlantic salmon, including New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. Through these ongoing discussions, the department has heard a vast array of experiences, ideas, challenges and solutions, all of which has been used to inform the draft elements of the Conservation Strategy.
Below, we present some of the key themes that have emerged so far through our engagement activities.
Across their range, Atlantic salmon are of the highest social and cultural importance to Indigenous peoples. In many places, salmon contribute to the daily lives of Indigenous peoples, emotionally, spiritually, and for subsistence. Ensuring that Atlantic salmon continue to thrive for future generations is considered a conservation priority for nearly all Indigenous peoples and Indigenous organizations in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The conservation of Atlantic salmon could more broadly support the Government’s commitment to conservation and reconciliation, if Indigenous peoples are empowered to lead.
Opening the door for salmon conservation
The concept of ‘opening the door’ was expressed often, and in two different contexts. First, there is a desire for decision makers to ‘open the door’ to more inclusive and diverse perspectives and knowledge sources, including Indigenous knowledge and values, when making management decisions. Secondly, there is a desire for policies, regulations, and permitting processes to ‘open the door’ to more transparent decision making and action-oriented conservation activities on the water.
Prioritizing and mitigating risks
Indigenous peoples, Indigenous organizations, partners and stakeholders raised a diversity of threats that were impacting Atlantic salmon across their range. As the threats are many, and resources are limited, it was felt that threats and mitigation activities needed to be established and prioritized. While it is recognized that specific threats vary between rivers, five concerns were consistently raised as being of top priority across the Atlantic salmon range:
- low marine survival
- quality, quantity, and accessibility of freshwater habitat
- illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, both domestically (freshwater) and abroad (at sea)
- climate change
Increased collaboration and partnership
Nearly all stakeholders expressed their desire to contribute to the conservation and stewardship of Atlantic salmon, and many reinforced the value that their respective organizations can bring in terms of expertise, local and traditional knowledge, and volunteerism. In particular, there is a desire and expectation from Provincial governments, Indigenous peoples and Indigenous organizations to be recognized and respected as partners in the management and conservation of salmon, including decision making.
Access to strategic funding
Funding was raised by nearly all Indigenous peoples, Indigenous organizations, partners and stakeholders as factor that currently limits research, monitoring, and/or recovery of Atlantic salmon. Specific elements of future funding programs that stakeholders considered important include: targeted funding for priority areas (e.g., climate change resiliency); long-term funding that is responsive to the long-life cycle of salmon (i.e., that goes beyond the usual 1–2-year funding cycle); large-scale funding to address complex and costly projects (e.g., barrier removals and hatchery upgrades). Moreover, it was reflected that the department could do more to encourage, facilitate, and promote existing funding programs across to prospective applicants.
Better communication and coordination
Communication was frequently raised as an area needing improvement, within DFO and externally between DFO and the Atlantic salmon community. Many individuals and groups generally had a low-level of understanding about who to contact at DFO about salmon, how to access population status updates for their given region, and how stakeholder data and conservation actions contribute to DFO science and management functions. Overall, many expressed the need to recognize and capitalize on the vast array of conservation activities, experience, and successes, currently being achieved across the Atlantic salmon network.
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