News From The Atlantic Salmon Federation

Overview and Surveys

Three weeks have passed since our meetings in New York and I want to once again give thanks to the volunteer dinner committee for organizing ASF’s very successful fundraising event celebrating our friend Orri Vigfusson. Also to Paul Fitzgerald, this year’s Lee Wulff award recipient and one of the architects of the New York Dinner, a debt of gratitude for your many contributions to ASF and wild Atlantic salmon conservation. Our Management Team left New York invigorated and we have made progress in the most important areas.

On Greenland, I recently attended meetings in Reykjavik to begin negotiations towards a new Greenland Salmon Conservation Agreement. Reflecting, I’m cautiously optimistic of our chances. The Greenland fishermen’s representative at the meeting said he believed an agreement would be beneficial and possible.

In Newfoundland and Labrador we return to court on December 14-15 to defend the Placentia Bay aquaculture decision. In July, we won an important court case, forcing the first ever full environmental assessment of an open net pen salmon aquaculture project in Atlantic Canada, but the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is appealing.

Meanwhile our Management Team is making progress on a new strategic plan that will set our priorities and guide activities for the next five or six years. We look forward to the continued input of our Chairmen and the new Strategic Planning Advisory Committee.

Finally, as DFO moves to implement a river-by-river management system in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI, federal staff are surveying anglers on the 2017 season. Conscientious and dedicated anglers like yourselves need to be heard from throughout this process. Here is a link to the survey:http://www.glf.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Gulf/FAM/Recreational-Fisheries/Survey-Salmon-2017

As well, I encourage as many of you as possible to complete this survey on striped bass, also from DFO: http://www.glf.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Gulf/FAM/Recreational-Fisheries/Survey-Stripped-Bass-2017

Both surveys will help guide their decision making process for the coming year, they’re important and take just a few minutes to complete.

Greenland

On November 22-23, I attended negotiations in Reykjavik with three members of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (Iceland), and Tonnes Berthelsen, general manager of KNAPK, the umbrella group representing Greenland fishermen.

Berthelsen, has many years of experience with KNAPK and was involved in the negotiation of previous agreements with ASF and NASF.  He is well positioned to make a positive recommendation to the KNAPK board. He indicated a new agreement is in the best interest of Greenland fishermen.

At the conclusion of our talks we agreed that I will draft the outline of a new Greenland Salmon Conservation Agreement. I will use the most effective components of the 2002 and 2007 agreements and introduce new clauses intended to force better monitoring, reporting and compliance. We will require that Greenland agree to a zero commercial quota each June at the NASCO general assembly before any payment is made.

This would eliminate factory landings and end commercial licenses, which allow each fisherman to set up to 20 nets, for the duration of the agreement. We would accept a continued subsistence harvest held at around 20 tonnes or approximately 6,000 fish per year.  Subsistence fishermen can only set one net and their catch is for personal or family use.

If we can reach agreement on a new deal with the Greenlanders the cost would be equally shared between ASF and NASF. Some alternate economic development opportunities we discussed include support for reindeer and muskox processing and sale, establishing a market for ptarmigan, value added projects for the cod fishery and a feasibility study for a land-based salmon and char aquaculture business.

We also committed to involving KNAPK staff and biologists with upcoming satellite tracking research we have planned for Greenland. They’re interested and it will help build knowledge and awareness among Greenlanders of the need to conserve Atlantic salmon.

The plan is to return to Reykjavik in late January or early February for another series of negotiations and to hopefully agree on a final draft of a new agreement which could be signed later in the spring ahead of the 2018 NASCO meeting in June. In the meantime, I will continue to keep directors updated on significant progress.

Reducing the catch at Greenland is the most practical way of ensuring more large salmon return to North American rivers, including from threatened and endangered populations. 

The Queen (NL) v. ASF

On December 14-15, lawyers for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Grieg Seafood ASA will argue to a panel of appeal court judges that the largest open net-pen salmon aquaculture project in Canadian history should proceed without any detailed study of its effect on wild salmon and the environment. ASF will again defend the public interest against a government that interprets its own environmental laws as a hurdle to be skirted or gotten over.

Our position on appeal mirrors what we argued successfully in the Newfoundland Supreme Court: the Grieg project in Placentia Bay presents significant risk to the environment and wild salmon, and it is the subject of serious public concern. Therefore, the only way to proceed is by the company completing a full environmental assessment, a public process to identify the dangers and suggest mitigation strategies before a cabinet decision is made whether to proceed.

The Newfoundland government will argue that based on a single clause in the Environmental Protection Act, the minister had the discretion to give the Placentia Bay project a pass on environmental assessment. They reason that the existing licensing regime will prevent environmental harm.

This assertion is false and does nothing to abate public concern. Our recent commissioned study of aquaculture regulations in Atlantic Canada, Maine, British Columbia, and Norway proves that Newfoundland, and Canada generally, have weak protections for wild fish against the threats of aquaculture. A DFO study of salmon rivers near existing aquaculture sites in southern Newfoundland has confirmed widespread interbreeding among aquaculture escapes and wild fish.

Interestingly, on November 9, the Newfoundland government ordered Grieg to begin a full environmental assessment. The earlier decision of the Provincial Supreme Court remains in effect even while the appeal is pending, so they are technically following the law. Unfortunately, both the company and government have said they will drop the environmental assessment should they win on appeal.

Our lawyers, Michael Crosbie and Alex Templeton of McInnes Cooper in St. John’s, are prepared to meet the provincial and company lawyers head-on later this month. It may take the court weeks or months to issue a decision once arguments are made.

Strategic Planning Update

In New York Robert Otto delivered an update to the Boards on the status and direction of our current strategic planning exercise. This plan will set the course for our conservation, research, education, and advocacy work in the short and mid-term. 

Since then, the Management Team has begun analyzing a list of proposed goals, activities, and objectives. They’re being evaluated to determine likelihood of success, cost, benefit to wild salmon, and other characteristics. Through this process we will eventually identify a select few priorities for the coming 5-6 years. Once the list of activities is narrowed, we will begin discussing specific actions, timelines, measures of success, fundraising and budget implications.

Also in New York Chairmen John Dillon and Alan Graham struck a special strategic planning advisory committee that is made up of the co-chairs of the ASF program committees (Communications, Government Affairs, Research & Environment). This group will be kept continually informed of our progress and provide essential input and give feedback as we move forward. The ASF (U.S.) and ASF (Canada) executive committees will also be regularly briefed and consulted as the strategic plan develops.

We are working towards a final draft of the Strategic Plan by April which Robert and I will present to Directors for review, input and approval during our spring 2018 meetings in Toronto May 3, 2018.

If you have any questions or thoughts please contact me anytime

Bill Taylor

President, Atlantic Salmon Federation