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Atlantic salmon return in numbers to eastern Canada

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To mid-July, Atlantic salmon rivers in eastern Canada have had some of the best wild Atlantic salmon returns in a very long time reports the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Water conditions throughout much of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Maine were good and the salmon runs strong. From Labrador and the Quebec North Shore to Maine, and all points in between, anglers and salmon conservationists rejoiced.


To mid-July, Atlantic salmon rivers in eastern Canada have had some of the best wild Atlantic salmon returns in a very long time reports the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Water conditions throughout much of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Maine were good and the salmon runs strong. From Labrador and the Quebec North Shore to Maine, and all points in between, anglers and salmon conservationists rejoiced.

The smaller salmon called grilse that have spent only one year in the ocean are the ones making the big difference. Counting facilities with few exceptions indicate much better runs than previous averages that stretch all the way back to 1984. One of the more dramatic examples is the Exploits River at Bishops Falls in central Newfoundland. To July 20, the river had a total return of 26,986 grilse and large salmon, compared to averages of 15,770 in the period 1992 to 2007 and 5,309 in the period 1984 to 1991.

There are counting facilities on only a portion of the hundreds of salmon rivers throughout eastern Canada and the New England states, so ASF, while being heartened by the early returns, is cautious about declaring this a bumper crop year yet.

"This year's good returns are a pleasant surprise, especially after the poor runs of 2007," says Geoff Giffin, the Atlantic Salmon Federation's Regional Director for New Brunswick. "Predicting salmon survival and abundance at sea is at best a very inexact science. For example, estimates by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) of returns to about 600 Canadian rivers are based on data gathered from fewer than 70 indicator rivers."

The Miramichi River system had excellent water levels and temperatures to July 17 and fishing was excellent for the Main Southwest, Northwest and Little Southwest. Good numbers of fish are entering the Northwest barrier, the southwest Millerton trap and the Dungarvon barrier.

The Restigouche River system continues to have higher than average water levels, excellent temperatures, and anglers report very good runs of grilse. The Kedgwick River had outstanding water conditions and anglers reported strong runs of both salmon and grilse.

The Saint John River's cumulative count to Mactaquac Dam was 1241 grilse, compared to 485 last year, which is more than the 2000 to 2004 average of 744. Unfortunately, only 172 large salmon have returned so far, well below the 2000-2004 average of 449. The Nashwaak River has had a far better run compared to the 2000 - 2004 average.

While scientists continue to try to figure out the cause and effect relationships between salmon and their marine environment, conservationists help maintain healthy spawning and rearing habitat in our rivers, reduce mortality as much as possible by eliminating commercial salmon fisheries, reduce in-river harvests and practice catch and release angling. When ocean conditions improve, which appears to have been the case this year, salmon returns will rebound. "While this strategy may not be all that scientific, it is a pragmatic and practical approach that works," concludes Mr. Giffin. "Atlantic salmon are a remarkably tough and resilient species, and when given a chance, they will respond."







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