Sustaining North American Salmon: Perspectives Across Regions and Disciplines

Chapter 6: Emerging Science and Management Issues with Atlantic Salmon

Kevin D. Friedland


Atlantic salmon Salmo salar science and management will have to adapt to times most recently colored by the unprecedented decline in salmon stocks across the entire North Atlantic. Whereas, in the not too distant past, salmon scientists were totally preoccupied with understanding the migration of salmon to distant water fishing grounds, they are now consumed with the factors that affect the natural mortality and maturation of salmon. Whereas managers and user groups at one time hoped that the development of salmon aquaculture would reduce the harvest pressure on wild stocks, they must now resolve issues of sea cage aquaculture site selection and fish farm escapees that threaten wild stocks with extinction instead of overexploitation. Whereas managing salmon stocks usually meant dealing with issues of allocation between user groups, we now increasingly see user groups calling for the protection of the resource in fear of its further demise and extirpation. This fundamental change in the priority of issues that the salmon community faces will reorder the direction of salmon science and management for decades to come. It is also plain to see from the historical record of salmon stock abundance, the pace with which reviewed scientific evidence becomes available to the management community, and the time frame in which management intent is translated into regulatory action that future change in salmon populations will likely occur on the same decadal time scales as past change. And for that matter, we cannot be confident we will find a practicable solution to the problem of contemporary salmon stock decline, simply because its root cause is unlike anything we, or the fish, have previously experienced. Instead, we may be cast in the role of observers to some of the most dramatic changes in the health and utilization of this natural resource.