The Salmon & Trout Association has expressed its concern at the limited progress made at last week’s Thirty-Second Annual Meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) in Goose Bay, Canada, on reducing the catch of salmon, of both North American and European origin, in the mixed stocks fishery off west Greenland. A high priority for the meeting had been to reach an agreement on a firm quota for the fishery for the next three seasons.
A firm quota could not be agreed by the negotiating parties – Greenland, United States, Canada and the EU. All bar Greenland had argued for the catch to be cut very substantially, consistent with a subsistence only fishery. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) had given NASCO uncompromising advice that, given the state of stocks in North America and southern Europe (including the UK), there should be no Greenland salmon fishery for the foreseeable future. In contrast the Greenland authorities had produced a letter from the fishermen in west Greenland demanding an annual quota of 1500 tonnes.
In the absence of any consensus, Greenland agreed (unilaterally) to establish an annual catch limit of 45 tonnes for the next three years.
Paul Knight, CEO of S&TA and Co-Chair of the NASCO NGOs, commented: “It is very disappointing that the issue of indiscriminate netting in west Greenland’s coastal waters is still unresolved, particularly at a time when wild salmon numbers across most of the North Atlantic are so low. The Greenlanders have at least come up, albeit unilaterally, with a maximum catch figure of 45 tonnes which, if it is adhered to, represents a considerable improvement on last’s declared catch of 58 tonnes plus a significant undeclared catch in the region of an additional 32 to 38 tonnes.”
Mr Knight continued: “We are however encouraged that a far more robust system of monitoring and recording catches in west Greenland has been agreed by all parties. If enacted as anticipated, this should allow greater confidence in the veracity of the figures compiled by the Greenland authorities.”
Mr Knight added: “We believe the continued commercial netting of salmon in mixed stocks fisheries in England, Scotland and Norway gives the Greenlanders little encouragement to cut back on their catch – a point that S&TA made forcibly at the meeting.”
On the salmon farming front, the very poor record of sea lice control in many areas of the west Highlands and Islands was highlighted at the meeting by S&TA and this was conceded by the Scottish Government.
Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TA (Scotland), said: “The pressure exerted by ourselves, together with other NGOs, was instrumental in persuading NASCO to devote a full day’s special session at the next annual meeting to the problems caused by aquaculture. This will represent a valuable opportunity to apply real peer pressure on the authorities (particularly Scottish Government) to regulate the industry far more diligently and to give much higher priority to the protection of wild fish.”