Interdependent Sustainability of Atlantic salmon



The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation  (NASCO) have asked their 18 sign up countries to present new updated five year plans in November 2007.  Ireland, like all the other planning salmon fishing countries will be required to submit updated salmon development action plans within an international agenda.

 Faroes and Greenland and Denmark

Two of the sign up countries in particular have the potential to have a huge impact on Irish Atlantic salmon stocks. The Faroe Islands and Greenland. The Faroe Islands have no recognised salmon rivers and Greenland has one. Denmark which works closely with both these countries has 9 rivers recognised to produce Atlantic salmon.

 Atlantic Feeding Grounds

When Atlantic salmon mass together in the wide ocean to feed and grow many different stocks intermingle and cannot be identified as belonging to a particular river.

A proportion of the Atlantic salmon off Greenland’s coastline and the Faroe Islands’ will be of Irish origin. The Faroese, Greenlanders and Danes are well used to surviving from the sea and could easily decimate Irish and other stocks if allowed. Such exploitation would of course be unsustainable and destroy their own fishery.


Thankfully it appears that salmon in the far North Atlantic are relatively safe from plunder as NASCO stated in its annual report of the recent annual meeting in June  that a further 7 year moratorium in west Greenland has been agreed.

The salmon catch from Greenland will be restricted for internal consumption only estimated to be 20 Tonnes (6 /7000) fish at 3 KG average weight). 

The situation in the Faroe Islands is less clear. It is reported that the EU commission are to adopt a decision not to agree a quota for their salmon fishery. A stipulation is that the International Commission for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) develop sustainability indicators that include the need for a precautionary approach taking account of socio economic needs.

Key Challenges for the Future

In the words of NASCO’s president Ken Wheelan “finding out why Atlantic Salmon are not surviving their sea journey to return to home rivers for spawning is a huge task  that cannot be achieved by one country alone”. NASCO’s  Salmon at SEA (SALSEA) project may go some way to solving this mystery. The SALSEA project as well as trying to understand the reason for the apparent disappearance of salmon at sea, includes a project to genetically identify salmon at sea and determine their river of origin. The results of this long term project are eagerly anticipated and it is hoped will provide very valuable information for decision making.


NASCO is an intergovernmental organisation formed to promote the sustainability of salmon stocks in the North Atlantic north of 32 degrees latitude. As an international cross governmental organisation NASCO’s objective is to contribute through consultation and co operation to it’s four cornerstones of salmon sustainability,

  1.  Conservation,
  2.  Enhancement,
  3.  Restoration
  4.  Rational management of salmon stocks.

Additionally, the best available scientific advice will provide as basis for decision making.

 The call for national salmon plans is a key part of this strategy.  

NASCO reviewed the salmon management plans for each country in 2006. 14 Criteria were used to assess the congruency and usefulness of plans listed below.

Salmon management Plans

Structure and Format

A1       All stocks within jurisdiction considered.

A2                   At least 5 years planned.

A3       Consistent with NASCO’s aims.

A4       Clear, concise ,easy to reference eg numbered paragraphs.

A5       Processes  and outputs open to critical evaluation.


B1       Introduction with general overview.

B2       Status of stocks included.

B3       Threats to stocks.

B4       Management of stocks.

B5       Management of Habitat and restoration.

B6       Management approach to aqua culture.

B7       Other influences.

B8       Summary of evaluation process.

B9       Socio economic Issues.

For the purposes of this article it is interesting to analyse B9 Socio economic issues as such an analysis may provide useful insights and incentives for future planning.

Half of all the NASCO sign up countries have no plan at all or no reference to socioeconomic issues. See below.

Portugal :                   No Plan submitted

France:                       No plan submitted

Germany:                   No plan submitted 

Denmark:                   No mention of socio economic factors.

Greenland:                 No mention of socio economic factors.

Faroe Islands:            No mention of socio economic factors.

Spain :                        No mention of socio economic factors

Sweeden                     No mention of socio economic factors

Northern Ireland:     There is no specific mention of socio economic issues in the                                     plan

Comments made by the plan review committee regarding countries with a socio economic plan include,

Canada: reference is made to a Canadian government commitment to Aboriginals to use salmon for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

USA : An experimental catch and release fishery is stated to be consistent with the socio economic approach to fisheries management by NASCO

Mentions the importance of outreach and education activities  

Ireland: A hardship scheme fund to compensate those that lost their livelihood through closure of drift net fishery

Scotland : The plan acknowledges the economic value of the fishery and aquaculture industry but does not describe how the implications are considered when identifying what action to take.

Educational activities are identified( Salmon in Schools Project)

England and Wales: aim to optimize the total economic value of surplus stocks and identifies where socio economic values are addressed in developing fishing controls.

Main factors limiting performance are identified, and a statement is made that existing licensees who are dependent upon fishing for their livehood retain the right to receive a license as long as they wish.

Iceland: The economic value of Angling is identified

It is clear that the decision about the balance between rod and net exploitation is driven by economic considerations.

Norway: The socio economic value of the most impotant salmon rivers is included.

The fishery management goal refers to safeguarding the interests of different user groups      

Finland:    The importance of socio importance of salmon to local communities is highlighted.

Russian Federation The plan refers to plans to address the socioeconomic problems, but it is not clear what this is referring to, nor what the implications may be for the management of salmon fisheries.

It is therefore apparent that there is a real opportunity to further define socio economic value of salmon and to recognise this.

Protection of Fish Stocks

 It is critical that fish stocks are protected to ensure future socio economic value and that stocks increase year on year. However it is also true that adding socio economic gains demands a greater understanding and provides incentives for action.  

International Cooperation local responsibility

Solving the challenge of sustainable Atlantic salmon stocks has an international component fully dependent on a local commitment. Co operation is needed locally and internationally to produce a solution that will enhance the value of the great Natural Living Asset that is Atlantic salmon in its natural habitat.  It is hoped that the Faroe Islands continue to implement the ICES recommendations for sustainability and that the impact on Irish salmon are minimised. Ireland also needs to set an example that demonstrates co operation with the greater goal of salmon abundance in future years. The opportunity for future abundance should inspire efforts to regenerate the capacity of Ireland’s rivers to contribute to a sustainable future for salmon. Irish salmon may contribute to a small Faroese fishery based on subsistence and socio economic measures but Ireland can improve runs of fish by addressing problems at home because they have the habitat to produce wild Atlantic salmon. The Faroe Islands for example do not have rivers to produce salmon but recognise that their waters feed and carry Irish salmon on migratory routes to spawn in their home rivers. Sustainability needs and interdependent approach.

Can planners and implementers in Ireland grasp the opportunity to work together, think globally and act locally? That means everyone doing what they can to re build salmon stocks.

I look forward to hearing any comments you may have. Please contact me by email.

Yours sincerely

Brendan Kerr

10 Belgravia Park


BT19 6XB

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