Many people have asked if the Atlantic Salmon might benefit from restoration of their ocean pastures. Absolutely yes and recovery will likely be dramatic within 2-4 years.
Like Pacific Salmon, Atlantic’s put on 90+% of their body weight in the ocean. When their ocean pasture is in a vibrant state of abundance all of sea life there enjoys high survival rates and grows large and healthy.
Tragically the North Atlantic ocean pastures are suffering dramatic productivity declines as one of the many deleterious effects of high and rising CO2 in the world’s atmosphere. We can replenish and restore them to bring back the fish.
Here’s how it simply works. Today’s high CO2 in the air is helping plants grow on land. Good plant growth on land is called “good ground cover.” That ground cover prevents dust from blowing in the wind and that missing dust was the primary source of mineral micro-nutrients for ocean pastures. Just as we know rain arriving in the wind nourishes and makes a pasture on land grow grass, dust from the wind nourishes and makes the plants of the ocean pasture grow. Without ocean pastures plant life, phyto-plankton, they cannot sustain life, including the Atlantic Salmon.
Atlantic ocean plant life, the phyto-plankton, has been observed to be in tremendous decline. International science teams have measured more than 26% lost in the last 30 years. How bad is 26%? Remember when we destroy just 1 in 10 of any form of life we say that we have decimated that life! It’s bad. Very bad. And the starvation and disappearance of both Atlantic Salmon and Atlantic Cod stand as testimony to the collapse of the Atlantic Ocean Pastures.
Here’s a link to a scientific paper about the starvation at sea being reported in Atlantic Salmon.
Just as our work to restore ocean salmon pastures of the NE Pacific has been successful there is every reason to believe the same simple, immediate, and successful ocean pasture restorations can take place in the North Atlantic to the benefit of Atlantic Salmon. Our restored NE Pacific ocean salmon pasture of 2012 brought back stupendous returns of salmon to Alaska last fall (2013). Where 50 million Pink salmon were expected, instead having been nurtured and sustained on our replenished and restored ocean pasture 219 million Pink Salmon returned to SE Alaska. Just now salmon boffins are forecasting that instead of a repeat of last years return of barely 2 million Sockeye Salmon to the Fraser River of British Columbia 72 million of the bright red Sockeye are expected. It will be the largest number in all of history, dwarfing the famed Bristol Bay Sockeye runs in far North Alaska.
It just works with North Pacific salmon, surely it will just work with North Atlantic salmon! And more Atlantic Salmon and Atlantic Cod have always shared the same ocean pastures as we replenish and restore those ocean pastures all fish indeed all of ocean life will benefit.
A little of the special history of Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon hold a special place with people on both sides of the North Atlantic. They have long been held to be a sentinel species which for more than 50 years have been at levels of near extinction. Once they were caught by the millions, today they number in the mere thousands.
In history Atlantic Salmon were protected by very early laws. Legislation in Scotland to help Atlantic salmon began in 1318 by Alexander II. It prohibited certain types of traps in rivers. During the 15th century, more laws were put in place; many regulated fishing times, and worked to ensure smolts could safely pass downstream. James III even closed a meal mill because of its history of killing fish attracted to the wheel. Because the fish were held in such high regard, poachers were severely punished.
In the USA many populations of Atlantic salmon are in serious decline, and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Currently, runs of 11 rivers in Maine are on the list – Kennebec, Androscoggin, Penobscot, Sheepscot, Ducktrap, Cove Brook, Pleasant, Narraguagus, Machias, East Machias and Dennys. The Penobscot is the “anchor river” for Atlantic salmon populations in the US. Returns in 2008 have been around 2,000, more than double the 2007 return of 940.
Human activities have heavily damaged salmon populations across their range. The major impacts were from overfishing and habitat change, and most importantly, though rarely spoken of, the dramatic decline of the primary productivity of their ocean pastures. Salmon decline in Lake Ontario goes back to the 18th–19th centuries, due to logging and soil erosion, as well as dam and mill construction. By 1896, the species was declared extirpated from the lake. When dams were constructed on the Oswego River, their spawning areas were cut off and they went extinct locally.
In the 1950s, salmon from rivers in the US and Canada, as well as from Europe, were discovered to gather in the offshore ocean waters near Greenland and the Faroe Islands. A commercial fishing industry was established, taking salmon using drift nets. After an initial series of record annual catches, the numbers crashed; between 1979 and 1990, catches fell from four million to 700,000.
Overfishing at sea is generally said to be the primary negative factor, though closure of the last commercial salmon fishery (NewFoundland) beginning in 1992 has not resulted in general increases in salmon populations through the present.
Beginning around 1990, the rates of Atlantic salmon mortality at sea more than doubled. In the western Atlantic, fewer than 100,000 of the important multiple sea-winter salmon were returning. Rivers of the coast of Maine, plus southern New Brunswick and much of mainland Nova Scotia saw runs drop precipitously, and even disappear. In the mid-1990s, the Atlantic Salmon Federation in cooperation with partners developed sonic tracking technology, and by 2008, the salmon had been tracked from rivers such as the Restigouche and the Miramichi as far along their migration routes as the Strait of Belle Isle, between Labrador and Newfoundland, and halfway to feeding grounds off Greenland.
The problems at sea remain, leading to a concerted international effort, called SALSEA, to find out more about the mortality at sea. It is organized by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization. Possibly because of improvements in ocean feeding grounds, returns in 2008 were very positive. On the Penobscot River in Maine, returns were about 940 in 2007, and by mid-July 2008, the return was 1,938. Similar stories were reported in rivers from Newfoundland to Quebec. In 2011, more than 3,100 salmon returned to the Penobscot, the most since 1986, and nearly 200 ascended the Narraguagus River, up from the low two digits just a decade before.
It’s time to write some good news into the history of Atlantic Salmon.
We can and will Bring Back The Fish!