Gulf Region Atlantic Salmon Recreational Fishery Questionnaire

To be completed before December 10, 2017.


Thank you for taking the time to complete this online questionnaire. Your opinion matters!

Below you will find information on the ecology and the management of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Atlantic salmon population. Please make sure to read the entire overview section before answering the survey.

With this questionnaire, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) seeks to consult the Canadian public on the management of the Atlantic salmon recreational fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The information obtained from this consultation will be considered, along with scientific advice, Indigenous and stakeholders consultations as part of the decision-making process for the development of the future Atlantic salmon recreational management plans for the waters of the Gulf Region in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The DFO Gulf Region is reviewing its management framework, and would like to explore the possibility of implementing management options based on the Precautionary Approach (PA) and in respect of First Nations priority of access to Atlantic salmon*.

As of now, the number of returning adults is scientifically assessed for four index rivers across the Gulf Region: the Restigouche, the Southwest Miramichi and the Northwest Miramichi in New Brunswick, and the Margaree in Nova Scotia. The vision of DFO regarding Atlantic salmon recreational fishing management is to establish specific objectives and regulations for each river where scientific data is available.

Through this questionnaire, we are asking for your input on the development of this approach.

*: in 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision (known as the Sparrow Decision) concerning the application of Aboriginal rights. The Court held that, on account of the government's fiduciary duty to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, Aboriginal rights, such as fishing, are protected under the Constitution of Canada and cannot be infringed without justification. Today, and as a consequence of this ruling, First Nations and Aboriginal organizations have a priority access to Atlantic salmon fishing, after conservation requirements are met, but before the recreational fishery is opened. Catch and release angling cannot take priority over Aboriginal fishing, as despite its reduced footprint, it still causes some mortality among the released salmon. In addition, developing any management strategy for the Atlantic salmon angling triggers a duty to consult the First Nations and Indigenous organizations, which DFO will begin doing in the fall and winter of 2017 as part of the development of management strategies based on the Precautionary Approach.

Please note that the questionnaire must be completed before December 10, 2017.

Atlantic salmon overview

Characteristics and definitions

Atlantic salmon is an anadromous fish. Adults spend time at sea and spawn in freshwater. After spawning, the surviving adults return to sea. The eggs hatch and the young develop in fresh water for two to six years, then descend to the sea to spend one or more years feeding and growing before returning to freshwater to spawn. Each river system has its own population (“stock”) of Atlantic salmon which is adapted to the conditions in that river. There are considerable variations in the timing of runs to and from the rivers, migratory routes in the ocean, length of time spent in the rivers and ocean, size of the adults, survival of the juvenile fish and diet.

For management purposes, adult Atlantic salmon are categorized as small salmon (grilse; fish with a fork length of less than 63 cm) and large salmon (fish with a fork length equal to or greater than 63 cm). When ages are determined, one-sea-winter (1SW) salmon refers to maiden (first-time spawners) fish which have spent one year at sea and two-sea-winter (2SW) salmon refers to maiden fish which have spent two years at sea. Repeat spawners are generally found in the large salmon group as these fish continue to grow after returning to the sea to recondition after spawning and therefore usually return at lengths greater than 63 cm. Bright salmon refers to salmon returning to rivers to spawn during May to November. Kelt salmon (or black salmon) are post-spawn salmon, found in rivers during winter or returning to the ocean in the spring.

Atlantic salmon populations in the Gulf Region are comprised of varying proportions of 1SW, 2SW, 3SW and repeat spawners. Males comprise the majority of 1SW salmon (grilse) though runs in some rivers include significant proportions of female 1SW salmon. Large salmon, consisting mostly of 2SW, 3SW and repeat spawners, are predominantly female.

Stock Status

The Department monitors adult salmon returns in rivers throughout Atlantic Canada, in collaboration with provincial governments, Aboriginal organizations, stakeholders and local associations.

In Canada, the population of wild Atlantic salmon at sea was as high as 1.7 million fish in the mid-1970s, but is presently approximately 600,000 fish.

The decline has been more severe for the large salmon component, from a maximum abundance of about 900,000 fish in the early 1970s to less than 150,000 on average in the 2000s. The decline of small salmon or grilse has been less severe with maximum levels of about 900,000 fish in the early 1980s to an average of 500,000 fish in the 2000s.

Returns of large salmon to the Gulf Region in 2016 were estimated at 35,600 fish (5th to 95th percentile range of 27,600 to 43,600 fish); this represents 87% of the long-term average (40,700 fish) of the 1970 to 2016 time series. Small salmon (grilse) returns to Gulf Region were estimated at 25,700 fish (5th to 95th percentile range of 20,600 to 30,900 fish), representing 41% of the average abundance (62,800 fish) of the time series from 1970 to 2016.

Overall in the Gulf Region’s rivers, large salmon abundance has declined by 15% between 2004 and 2016 (approximately two generations). For small salmon (grilse), abundances declined by 37% to 67% in the four Gulf Region Salmon Fishing Areas with a decline in estimated small salmon abundance of 63% to Gulf Region rivers overall during the same twelve year period.

The continued low abundance of salmon stocks, despite significant angling reductions and sustained production of juveniles in rivers suggests that factors acting on survival in the first and second years at sea constrain the numbers of Atlantic salmon returning to rivers.

The Precautionary Approach (PA) Framework

Managing the Atlantic salmon fishery under a PA framework means defining management actions based on the performance of stock indicators, for each river where scientific data is available. The status of the stock is categorized in three different zones, defined by reference points noted 1) and 2) in the diagram below provided as a fictive example.

Description of the image above : Graphic representation of the Precautionary Approach Framework showing, from left to right, stock status zones as defined by reference points: 1) the critical zone, defined by a stock status below the limit reference point, 2) the cautious zone, defined by a stock status between the Limit Reference point and the Upper Stock Reference point, and 3) the healthy zone, defined by a stock status above the Upper Stock Reference point. The removal reference is indicated on this diagram as a dotted line in the critical and cautious zones. The removal reference is kept at minimum when in the critical zone, and increases progressively in the cautious zone as stock status improves. In the Healthy zone, it is represented as a solid horizontal line, indicating that it remains at a constant level once the healthy zone is reached.

The limit reference point (1) is the value of stock status indicator below which serious harm is occurring to the stock. The upper stock reference (2) is the value of stock indicator above which the stock is considered healthy, but below which removals must be progressively reduced in order to avoid reaching the limit reference point. The removal reference (3) is the maximum acceptable removal rate for the stock, is normally expressed in terms of fishing mortality or harvest rate, and varies according to the stock status, under pre-defined rules.

An Atlantic salmon recreational fishery managed under the PA framework would mean that management actions (for this example, expressed in terms of removal reference) are established in advance for each possible stock status scenario, i.e., critical zone, cautious zone or healthy zone, and possibly for several scenarios inside a particular stock status zone (i.e., improving trend or declining trend inside a particular zone). In the graphic example provided above, the removal reference is kept at the lowest possible level when the stock is in the critical zone, and is progressively increased when the stock is in the cautious zone, until reaching a maximum acceptable removal reference, which is maintained when the stock is in the healthy zone.

Links for more information

Questionnaire starts here:

Initial questions aim at better knowing the people who answer the survey and provide their management advice. These questions are not designed as a way to collect personal information for later use, and answers will not be used for stock assessment purpose. (* must be filled)

2017 Atlantic Salmon Recreational Fishery Survey - Fall 2017

Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5 - Required

*Are you a Canadian citizen? This question is required

Question 6 - Required

*where do you reside? This question is required

Question 7 - Required

*In which river system or area do you mostly angle for Atlantic salmon? This question is required

Question 8

Did you angle for Atlantic salmon in 2017 ?

Question 9

If you answered yes, how many days did you go angling for Atlantic salmon? (one outing equals one angling day)

Question 10

How many Atlantic salmon did you catch and release in 2017? / - Small salmon (grilse) equal or less than 63 cm:

Question 11

- Large salmon (equal or more than 63 cm):

Question 12

Did you angle for Striped bass in 2017?

Question 13

When catch and release was implemented in the salmon fishery, how did it affect your angling habits? (check all choices that apply):

Question 14
Question 15

In your views, when does a salmon river produce a harvestable surplus of fish (please choose one answer)?

Question 16
Question 17

When a salmon river is NEAR/BARELY REACHING its minimum conservation requirements (just enough Atlantic salmon returned to ensure conservation during a defined period), do you think it is more important to… (please choose one answer):

Question 18
Question 19

When a river is SURPASSING its minimum conservation requirements (enough Atlantic salmon returned to surpass conservation during a defined period), do you think it is more important to… (please choose one answer):

Question 20
Question 21

When a river is NOT REACHING its minimum conservation requirements (not enough Atlantic salmon returned to ensure conservation during a defined period), do you think it is more important to… (please choose one answer):

Question 22
Question 23

Improving knowledge on the Atlantic salmon recreational fishery catch and effort QUESTION: What, in your opinion, is the best approach to ensure that salmon anglers provide accurate and timely reports of their fishing activities, including harvested fish if/when authorized (please choose all choices that apply)?

Question 24