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Science Response 2011/005

Status of Atlantic Salmon in Salmon Fishing Areas (SFAs) 19-21 and 23


Atlantic salmon populations of the Maritimes Region have experienced two or more decades of decline. Atlantic salmon commercial fisheries were closed by 1985. In-river closures of recreational fisheries began in 1990 in the inner Bay of Fundy and expanded to all outer Bay of Fundy (western part of Salmon Fishing Area, SFA 23) and many eastern and southern shore rivers (SFAs 20 and 21) by 1998. In addition, Aboriginal communities have either reduced or curtailed their fishing activity. There are thought to be four large groupings of salmon in the Maritimes Region: the outer Bay of Fundy, the Nova Scotia Southern Upland (SFAs 20 and 21), the inner Bay of Fundy (SFA 22 and eastern part of SFA 23), and eastern Cape Breton (SFA 19) areas. Many populations are extirpated, and inner Bay of Fundy salmon are listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act. In November 2010, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated the Outer Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia Southern Upland and eastern Cape Breton population assemblages as endangered.

Science advice on the status of salmon in SFAs 19-21 and 23 was requested by Fisheries and Aquaculture Management on November 19, 2010. This advice is used to inform Aboriginal groups of the status of the salmon resource in advance of developing harvest agreements and to develop recreational fishing plans for 2011. Given that this advice consists of an update of previous advice using established methods, it was decided to provide this status report through the Science Special Response Process. A meeting was held by DFO Maritimes Science (February 17, 2011) to review the information in this document. This Science Response report is a product of that meeting.

Evaluation of the status of Atlantic salmon in the Maritime Provinces is based on a comparison of the abundance of salmon relative to a reference point known as the conservation spawner requirement (CSR). The CSR is generally a river-specific estimate of the number of salmon, based on the amount of fluvial (of suitable gradient) habitat, and biological characteristics of salmon, required to produce an egg deposition of 2.4 eggs/m2 of habitat (O’Connell et al. 1997). The corresponding egg deposition is referred to as the conservation egg requirement. The CSR was originally adopted by the Canadian Atlantic Fisheries Scientific Advisory Committee (CAFSAC) as the level below which CAFSAC would strongly advise that no fishing should occur. CAFSAC considered that this level provided a modest margin of safety but that the possibility of irreversible damage to the stock increased the further spawning escapement was, and the longer it remained, below the CSR, even at levels only slightly below (CAFSAC 1991).

This Science Response report is from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, Regional Science Special Response Process (SSRP) of February 17, 2011 on Stock Assessment of Atlantic Salmon.

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