“With S&TC’s Chairman, CEO, Head of Science and Scottish Director actively involved in NASCO, we are playing a genuinely influential role within international wild Atlantic salmon conservation politics”
The 2019 NASCO meeting was held in Tromsø, Norway, this year and was preceded by a 2-day Symposium for the International Year of the Salmon - Managing the Atlantic salmon in a rapidly changing environment.
S&TC’s Head of Science, Dr Janina Gray, gave a presentation on behalf of the NGOs, covering the importance of using science to support policy making in restoring Atlantic salmon stocks for conservation, cultural, food and recreation purposes. The presentation was very well received by the 160 delegates and Janina’s main call to action was a challenge to the NASCO governments to politically commit the necessary policies and resources to protect and restore salmon stocks right across their North Atlantic range.
Perhaps the three most important recommendations coming out from the Symposium were that:
- The primary objective of salmon management across all NASCO Parties and Jurisdictions must be to produce the highest number of healthy wild salmon smolts possible from all relevant river systems;
- We have to change our mindset from purely managing wild salmon stocks to actively conserving them, otherwise extinctions will surely follow;
- Wild salmon do not recognise country boundaries and we have to think in terms of protecting the species on a global scale. For example, fish heading from Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and the UK, and from USA and Canada, all run the risk of being impacted by open-net salmon farming in other jurisdictions. NASCO is ideally placed to reach a consensus as to how salmon farming should be operated and regulated to protect salmon across their entire range.
At a Special Session during the actual NASCO meeting, S&TC CEO, Paul Knight, who co-chairs the NGOs, gave a statement urging the Parties and Jurisdictions to undertake a progressive transition from a largely stock management to a protection/conservation regime for wild salmon.
His clear message was that we must aim for full wild smolt production by actioning measures to combat the stressors over which we have potential control – open-net salmon farming, water quality and quantity, intensive agriculture, hydroelectricity, barriers to migration, predation etc.
This will give salmon the best possible chance of surviving their marine phase, where there is far less that we can do to conserve them, except minimise coastal and high seas exploitation and by-catch.
In the questions that accompanied the Special Session, S&TC Chairman, Bill Hicks, received assurance that the annual process whereby NASCO jurisdictions report progress on their salmon management and conservation measures, would be more challenging to governments in future. This will include NASCO representatives having to defend their actions publicly against questioning from the NGOs, which will enable us to better hold our respective governments to account over wild salmon conservation.
S&TC Scottish Director, Andrew Graham-Stewart, also gave a statement, in which he highlighted the continuing lack of commitment by those NASCO jurisdictions with open-net salmon farming to take the necessary and urgent measures, in line with the clear NASCO guidelines, to address the negative impacts of salmon farming on wild stocks.
His statement elicited several responses from the parties including a commitment from the senior Scottish Government representative who gave an assurance that a significant tightening of regulation of salmon farms is imminent. This was consistent with the statement delivered to the Scottish Parliament on June 5 by Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, outlining the first steps towards delivering the recommendations from the Parliamentary Committee Inquiries last year, both of which reported that the status quo was no longer an option for the way in which salmon farming is operated or regulated in Scotland.
As well as the NGO statement, the NASCO Council was presented with a list of recommendations from the Symposium. NASCO President, Jóannes Hansen from the Faroe Islands, confirmed that the Heads of Delegation would discuss the way forward for the forum in the autumn, and that the NGOs would be involved in discussing how NASCO would operate in the future.
So, at the end of an unusually upbeat NASCO meeting, there is the promise of beneficial change for wild salmon conservation across the North Atlantic. And with S&TC’s Chairman, CEO, Head of Science and Scottish Director actively involved in NASCO, we are playing a genuinely influential role within international wild Atlantic salmon conservation politics, besides all that we do to restore wild stocks within UK river systems.
The RiverFly Census presents the conclusions and policy recommendations from three years of unprecedented species-level research and analysis across 12 rivers from southern chalk streams to the north’s Eden and Coquet.
The scope of the analysis is staggering: we (or rather, our independent scientist, Dr Nick Everall and his team) have sampled 34,000 river-dwelling invertebrates from more than 480 different species. This massive data set of aquatic “wee beasties” has provided hard evidence on the decline of riverfly life and tells a story of the pollution stresses our rivers face. By the Environment Agency’s own reckoning, only 14 % of our rivers are healthy and we reckon it is worse than that.
Corin Smith | Comms
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