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Disappointment as Negotiations Fail to Limit Greenland's Salmon Catch

15 June 2015

CANADA - The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) has stated that it is very disappointed over the failure of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) to limit Greenland’s salmon harvest to sustainable levels, during negotiations to set regulatory measures at meetings that took place June 2 to 5 in Goose Bay, Labrador.

Greenland would not budge below a quota of 45 tonnes, which was more than other Parties to the West Greenland Commission (made up of Greenland, Canada, the United States and the European Union), could accept.

Denmark on behalf of Greenland unilaterally committed to limit the total annual catch for all components of its fisheries to take no more than 45 tonnes in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Scientists that advise NASCO have been very clear that there should be no harvest of North American salmon at Greenland.

“A compromise would have been a subsistence fishery of no more than 20 tonnes, but more than twice this amount is unacceptable,” said Bill Taylor, President of ASF.

“This will have a devastating effect on already endangered, threatened and at-risk salmon populations in North America and southern Europe.”

“Greenland’s intent to harvest 45 tonnes each year from 2015 to 2017 will put our salmon at further risk, detracting from the many expensive programs carried out to restore wild Atlantic salmon runs in North America,” said Mr Taylor.

“The Greenland fishery jeopardizes such programs as the $64-million Penobscot River restoration in Maine to open up salmon habitat and the million dollar liming program to combat the effects of acid rain on the West River Sheet Harbour in Nova Scotia. There are hundreds of other projects on rivers throughout eastern Canada and northeastern United States that will be affected. It is devastating that the hopes and dreams for the salmon of these rivers will continue to be at risk of being scooped up in gillnets off Greenland,” said Mr Taylor.

Greenland is getting a lot of pressure from its fishermen for a much larger salmon fishery and to be allowed to sell their salmon to markets outside Greenland. At the meeting, Greenland read a statement by The Association of Fishers and Hunters in Greenland (KNAPK), who are demanding salmon that they can process and sell and contribute to the growth of their country’s economy through export. KNAPK’s written statement indicated that the fishermen wanted a minimum of a 1,500 tonne quota.

While the other Parties used every avenue at their disposal to lower Greenland’s harvest to a level more in line with the advice of the ICES, this was impossible under the NASCO Convention that requires unanimous support by all Parties to the regulatory agreement. It is laudable that the Faroe Islands once again agreed to no catch on their feeding grounds, where 20 per cent of the catch could be made up of North American salmon that migrate there. NASCO did agree to improved monitoring and control measures to be implemented by Greenland.

One option now is for a private agreement to be worked out, like the one that was in effect between 2002 and 2011, before Greenland’s harvest began to escalate in 2012. The escalation was due to the introduction of a fishery to sell salmon to factories and Greenland’s insistence that the subsistence fishery has no cap. The private agreement was between the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) of Iceland, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, KNAPK, and the Greenland Government. NASF has had a private agreement with the Faroes fishermen since 1992, which has helped keep catches there at zero.

Bill Taylor concluded: “ASF will continue to work with Canada, the United States and non-government partners both inside and outside NASCO to conserve and restore salmon and deal with the challenges presented by Greenland’s intent to continue its significant harvest of North American salmon.” 

Further Reading

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