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Salmon numbers falling, report says


This article was published June 19, 2017 at 3:01 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Fewer of North America’s Atlantic salmon are making it back to rivers to spawn, which bodes poorly for the future of the imperiled fish, an international conservation group said.

Atlantic salmon were once abundant in the rivers of New England and Atlantic Canada, but they are now endangered or have disappeared in parts of both areas. The salmon are born in rivers, swim to the Atlantic and return to their natal river to spawn.

The New Brunswick, Canada-based Atlantic Salmon Federation released a report this month that says the total estimated returns of the fish to North America in 2016 was a little more than a half million salmon. That is a 27 percent decrease from the previous year.

The group said young salmon who spent only one winter at sea before returning to the river, called grilse, fared especially poorly last year. They returned at a rate nearly a third lower than 2015, the group said.

The salmon federation warned that signs show 2017 is looking like another poor year, said spokesman Neville Crabbe.

“What do we do? We’ve asked people to choose to kill fewer salmon,” Crabbe said. “The long-term solution is government to government agreements.”

Atlantic salmon face a number of challenges in the wild, ranging from the presence of river dams to continued fishing pressure off Canada and Greenland.

The salmon federation’s report states that Greenland fishermen are catching fewer of the fish, which could be a signal of poor survival of salmon in the wild.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a recovery plan for Gulf of Maine salmon that calls for restored habitats, removal of dams and use of hatchery programs to rebuild the population. The Gulf of Maine’s Atlantic salmon were listed as endangered in 2000.

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