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Greenlandic Fishery Continues to Catch Imperiled Atlantic Salmon

Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Canada - On Friday, June 5, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) concluded its Thirty-Second Annual Meeting in Labrador, Canada and agreed to new regulatory measures for the Atlantic salmon fishery that occurs off West Greenland.

Participants discussed a number of matters critical to Atlantic salmon conservation and management. Most importantly, NASCO parties reviewed the scientific advice on the status of Atlantic salmon populations and considered new rules for those salmon fisheries that harvest stocks originating from multiple countries, including the United States.

The highest priorities for the United States during the meeting were to reduce the West Greenland fishery to the lowest possible level, and to institute strong management and control measures to improve catch monitoring and ensure compliance with agreed catch limits.

While new regulatory measures were adopted, they do not include an agreed catch limit for the fishery. Greenland unilaterally set a 45 ton quota for all components of the fishery for fishing seasons 2015, 2016, and 2017. The United States, the European Union, and Canada all indicated that the catch level demanded by Greenland was simply too high; it goes against the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, and Greenland could not provide adequate information to demonstrate significant dependence on salmon fishing, as required by the Convention.

The new measures will maintain the prohibition on exports of Atlantic salmon from Greenland, and require Greenland to implement new, stronger monitoring, control, and reporting measures. The new monitoring and reporting measures include enhanced licensing requirements for fishermen, such as annual catch reporting to maintain a license and in-season catch reporting that will allow Greenland to swiftly close the fishery once the catch limit is reached. In addition, the new measures include a provision indicating that if any overharvest of the unilateral catch cap occurs in a particular year, it will result in an equal reduction in the catch limit for the following year. And, any under-harvest cannot be carried forward to a future year.

The new regulatory measures will apply to the fishery at West Greenland in 2015, and will also apply in 2016 and 2017, unless any party requests review. Upon adoption of the measures, the United States called for a review of the provisions of the measures during an intersessional meeting to be held in 2016.

These measures were adopted by consensus, although the United States noted in its closing statement significant concern about the catch limit set by Greenland.

"With fewer than 500 Atlantic salmon returning to U.S. rivers in 2014, it is critically important to do everything possible to reduce the threats to U.S. salmon to give them the best chance to return to their home rivers to spawn," said Daniel Morris, head of the U.S. delegation and deputy regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. "We believe the cap on the West Greenland fishery set unilaterally by Greenland is too high. However, this fishery has been operating without limits, and we now have a commitment from Greenland to limit the fishery, which is progress. Considering the entire package of measures, including commitments to improve fishery monitoring and control, and the benefits of an internationally regulated fishery, we felt we could support the adoption of the agreement without an agreed catch cap. We are committed to continuing to work with Greenland and all of the NASCO parties to address overfishing of Atlantic salmon throughout its range."

The new regulatory measures to enhance management and control of the salmon fishery were fundamental to reaching agreement. The measures, together with the continuation of the important scientific sampling program in the West Greenland fishery, provide a foundation for NASCO members to continue to work collectively to minimize the risks of this fishery to Canadian, European, and U.S.-origin salmon. Such cooperation is essential for helping to ensure the continued survival and long-term sustainability of Atlantic salmon.

The report of the 2015 NASCO Annual Meeting with annexes and other information on Atlantic salmon and the Organization is available on the NASCO website.

The next annual meeting of NASCO will be held in June 7-10, 2016, in Germany.

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NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's ocean resources and their habitat. We provide vital services for the nation: productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems-all backed by sound science and an ecosystem-based approach to management.

NASCO is an intergovernmental organization formed to promote the conservation, restoration, enhancement, and rational management of salmon stocks in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Thirty-Second Annual Meeting of NASCO was held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Canada, from June 2-5, 2015. NASCO's members are Canada, Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union (which currently has 28 Member States), Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. Representatives from 35 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also attended the meeting.