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«The Status of Wild Atlantic Salmon: A River by River Assessment The Status of Wild Atlantic Salmon: A River by River Assessment Table of contents ...»

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The Status of

Wild Atlantic Salmon:

A River by River Assessment

The Status of

Wild Atlantic Salmon:

A River by River Assessment

Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Summary of findings

3. Scenarios for the future

4. The biology of Atlantic salmon

5. Threats to salmon populations

5.1 Pollution

5.2 River infrastructure and engineering

5.3 The effect of fisheries on wild Atlantic salmon stocks.............. 42

5.4 Salmon aquaculture industry

5.5 Stocking and sea-ranching

5.6 Climate change

6. The economic value of wild salmon stocks

7. Status of salmon rivers by country or region

7.1 The Baltic

7.2 Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia

7.3 North America

7.4 Denmark

7.5 England and Wales

7.6 France

7.7 Iceland

7.8 Ireland and Northern Ireland

7.9 Norway

7.10 Portugal

7.11 Russia

7.12 Scotland

7.13 Spain


Appendix 1: Methodology used for river categorization

Appendix 2: Data-sets


List of Figures and Tables Figure 1 Status of salmon populations in the rivers of 19 countries, in 2000

Figure 2a Categorization of salmon-bearing rivers in 19 countries (classified by alphabetical order; the status is expressed as a percentage)

Figure 2b Categorization of salmon-bearing rivers in 19 countries (sorted using the extinct category; the status is expressed as a percentage)

Figure 3 Map of the wild Atlantic salmon’s range in 2000 and its known migration routes

Figure 4 Reported rod and net catches (numbers) and total catch 1952-1998

Figure 5 Annual Rod and Net Salmon Catch, 1974 – 1998.................. 108 Figure 6 Nominal catch of salmon from Ireland 1974 – 1999.............. 112 Figure 7 Nominal catch of salmon from Northern Ireland 1974 – 1999

Figure 8 Atlantic salmon catch in Russia/Soviet Union 1900-1997..... 136 Table 1 Possible scenarios for the future of wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

Table 2 The composition of gravel at salmon spawning sites............... 25 Table 3 Summary of requirements for spawning and incubation........ 25 Table 4 Typical characteristics of juvenile salmon habitats

Table 5 Salmon fishing licenses issued by fishing method:

1937 and 1997

Table 6 Status of salmon populations in French rivers

Table 7 Magnitude of individual problems in 27 catchments............. 114 Table 8 List of rivers and tributaries designated under EC (Ireland and Northern Ireland)

Table 9 List of Irish catchments subjected to arterial drainage........... 123 Table 10 Scottish rivers containing or probably containing salmon by Statistical Region, length and tributary characteristics (Scotland)

Table 11 Historic salmon rivers in Spain by region

viii Foreword

WWF is committed to preserving the World’s biological diversity with a particular emphasis on the protection and restoration of vulnerable and endangered species. The following report represents the collective effort of many individuals within WWF and its partners in the conservation, scientific and angling communities and is an attempt to help bridge the gap in public knowledge of the status of Atlantic salmon across it’s range.

Conducting our research we learned that, in many instances, not enough information was available to formulate an appropriate assessment of a particular river’s population of wild Atlantic salmon. Where sufficient information existed we were able to make the proper assessment and categorization based on readily available government data. In other circumstances, when information was more difficult to discern, every effort was made to apply precautionary standards and conservative analysis to our review and assessment.

WWF submits this report to all those interested in helping to protect and restore this magnificent species and we sincerely hope that it better informs the international community of the salmon’s plight and begins a dynamic discussion of ways to restore populations of wild Atlantic salmon to health in all their native rivers.

WWF, May 2001

ix Acknowledgements

his Status of Wild Atlantic Salmon report started as an initiative of WWF’s T Norway office. It evolved into a collaboration among numerous WWF offices, in particular WWF-U.S.’s Marine Conservation Program and WWF’s European Freshwater Programme. WWF also collaborated with government agencies, academic institutions and other NGO’s. We are grateful to the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture for intial funding and to WWF-U.S., WWF-Norway and WWF’s European Freshwater Programme for additional funding and support.

Henning Røed, of WWF Norway, coordinated and analyzed the majority of the research and was the main editor during a four-year process. Gareth Porter, Jim Gourlay and Richard DeVitre edited and researched several sections of the report. The freshwater sections were the result of extensive research by Hanne Christiansen, Kjell Moe, Mark Vanderbeeken and Jane Madgwick. Our special thanks to Bill Taylor, president, and researchers Stephen Tinker and Fred Whoriskey as well as Sue Scott of the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Ed Baum, former Senior Scientist for the Atlantic Salmon Commission, Maine.

In addition, we would like to thank our in-country contributors, who did excellent work. In Norway: Kjetil Hindar, Mai Britt Knoph, Øystein Aas, Arne Sivertsen, Steinar Sandøy, Stig Hvoslef, Erik Steineger, and Rasmus Hansson.

In Sweden: Cathy Hill, Lennart Nyman, Niki Sporong, Lennart Henrikson (WWF), Christina Rappe (Swedish Environmental Protection Agency), Hans

Ackerfors, and Lars Karlson (Swedish Salmon Research Institute). In Finland:

Dr. Timo Makinen (Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute for Helsinki) and Anita Makinen (WWF). In Iceland: Thorolfur Antonsson (Institute of Freshwater Fisheries in Reykjavik), Arni Finnsson (INCA), Gorm Rasmussen (Danish Institute for Fisheries Research), and Michael Brinch Pedersen (WWF).

In Scotland, we would like to thank the following for their research and support: R.I.G. Morgan (WWF) who prepared the report with the help of xi Andrew Wallace (Association of Salmon Fishery Boards), James Butler (Wester


Ross Fisheries Trust), Jon Watt (Lochaber Fisheries Trust), Callum Sinclair (West Galloway Fisheries Trust), Shona Marshall (North West Fisheries Trust), Mark Bilsby (Western Isles Fisheries Trust), Andrew Black (Dundee University), Elizabeth Leighton and Becky Wills (WWF). [Note: The views expressed in the Scotland section are not necessarily representative of all experts mentioned in this paragraph.] In the rest of the U.K.: Dr. Lynda M. Warren (University of Wales), John Browne and Martin O’Grady.

In Russia, special thanks go to: Dmitry Lajus (Zoological Institute Russian Academy of Sciences Universitetskaya), Sergey Titov (State Research Institute on Lake and River Fisheries), and Vassily Spiridonov (WWF). In France, Dr.

Frederic Mazeaud (AIDSA), Gaele Roussau (ERN), and from WWF, Martin Arnauld, Jean-Chriostopher Poupet, and Vincent Graffin. In Spain: Cesare Rodrigues Ruiz and Guido Schmidt (WWF). In Portugal, thanks to Torres de Noronha. In Belgium, J.C. Philippart and Phillippe Weiler (WWF). In Germany: Anna Schulte-Wulwer-Leidig (Internationale Kommission zum Schutze des Rheins). Thanks also to Kirsty Overberg, Gunda Marianne Ruud, Erwin Meissner Schau, Nils Gjerstad, Chris Poupard (Salmon & Trout Association) and Orri Vigfuson (North Atlantic Salmon Fund).

We would especially like to thank Dr. Malcolm Windsor and Dr. Peter Hutchinson, both of the NASCO secretariat, and Kjetil Hindar, who was a very valuable scientific advisor.

WWF, May 2001 xii 1


A species on the brink he anadromous Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) is among the most revered T species on the planet. Its ability to navigate the ocean, to return to its natal stream, to leap over seemingly impassable obstacles, and to detect through its olfactory senses the very gravel of its origin, has amazed and inspired humans for thousands of years.

Dubbed the “King of Fish” more than three centuries ago by the English writer Izaak Walton, the spectacular wild Atlantic salmon is today at risk of disappearing altogether.

Through millennia, this amazing animal has chosen only the most pristine river systems as its habitat. It became the magnificent centrepiece for thriving ecosystems – but more recently has been Atlantic salmon can leap vertical distances of 12 feet in order to surmount obstacles. However dams and other man-made barriers have had a major impact on numbers through the 1 years. Atlantic Salmon Federation


likened to a canary in the mine, an early detection system warning us, with its widening demise, that that we are threatening the planet and every living thing.

After two centuries of a slow and steady decline that coincided, both geographically and chronologically, with human industrial development, wild Atlantic salmon populations have plummeted precipitously over the past three decades. Salmon catches in the entire North Atlantic fell by more than 80 percent between 1970 and the end of the 20th century. Today they stand at the lowest levels in known history, with wild Atlantic salmon completely extirpated from much of their original range, and hanging by a thread in many other locations.

Wild Atlantic salmon have disappeared in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Slovakia; they currently teeter on the brink of extinction in the United States and parts of southern Canada.

Salmon are in a precarious state in many other North Atlantic countries to the point where anadromous Atlantic salmon are plentiful today in only a handful of rivers. Atlantic salmon populations are known to be comparatively healthy in only four countries – Norway, Ireland, Iceland and Scotland. Common population sizes range from 20 to 2,000 individuals, and few rivers have more than 10,000 spawners. This contrasts dramatically with historic levels, and with several species of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), which may have population sizes on the order of millions (Hindar & Jonsson, 1995).

NASCO The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) – the treaty organization responsible for the international management of Atlantic salmon – has described the gravity of the situation thus:

Many populations are threatened, despite the major sacrifices resulting from the increasingly stringent management measures which have been implemented in the last decade. Very strong conservation measures have been taken but the salmon are still not responding in the way that had been hoped.

(NASCO, 1999)

–  –  –

Management of salmon stocks in the whole of the Atlantic should be based on local assessments of the status of river and sub-river stocks (NASCO, 2000).

But until now, only Norway has followed the advice from NASCO and undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the status of salmon rivers on a river-by-river basis.

This report is intended to fill a critical gap in knowledge about wild Atlantic salmon. It includes a series of analyses of the status of salmon in each country in its entire range and details factors influencing salmon population declines in each country, followed by a general analysis of the major threats to wild Atlantic salmon throughout what remains of their range.

In the 18 years since NASCO was first formed, Atlantic salmon stocks have declined more than 75 per cent and despite the advice of ICES, the NASCO member states have refused or failed to manage Atlantic salmon on a riverspecific basis in recognition of the fact that each river system hosts a strain of salmon uniquely adapted to its particular ecology. Consequently, the accumulated knowledge base has remained limited at a time when many of these unique strains are at risk of extinction.

Methodology1 Each nation study is based on the best available data on the status of Atlantic salmon populations, whether from published literature, official data, or unpublished data collected directly by a salmon specialist commissioned by WWF.

In order to present data that are analogous among all salmon-bearing regions, the report employs a system of six categories based upon The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List for species (IUCN, 2000) and upon work by scientists specializing in Atlantic salmon (Frankel and Soulé, 1981; Allendorf

et al., 1997; More et al., 1999; Fleming et al., 2000). Those six categories are:

1. Extinct

2. Critical

3. Endangered

4. Vulnerable

5. Healthy

6. Unknown status 3

1. See Appendix 1 for a detailed explanation of the categorization methodology.

2 Summary of findings B ased on nation-by-nation reports from the remaining 19 countries still

hosting populations of wild Atlantic salmon, this study finds that:

• Wild Atlantic salmon populations in one third of the rivers of North America and Europe are endangered.

• Wild Atlantic salmon stocks have already disappeared completely from at least 309 river systems in Europe and North America.

• Wild Atlantic salmon are on the brink of extinction in Portugal, Estonia, Poland, the United States and adjoining parts of southern Canada.

• Nearly 90 percent of the known healthy populations of wild salmon are found in only four countries – Norway, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland.

• In the remainder of the range, 85 percent of wild Atlantic salmon populations are categorized as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critical.

• The production of farmed salmon in the North Atlantic is 600,000 tonnes annually – which is 300 times greater than the annual catch of wild salmon.

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