Ocean Silver, the Atlantic Salmon's Ocean Odyssey: Implications for Fishery Managers


The AST, in partnership with The Fishmongers' Company, is mounting a one day conference on Tuesday 13th December, 2011, at which a panel of well known and expert scientists in the field will present the results of the three-year SALSEA- Merge (Salmon at Sea - http://www.nasco.int/sas/salseamerge.htm) research programme.

SALSEA is a multi-national project funded largely by the EU. It involves the most extensive research ever carried out into the marine phase of the life cycle of Atlantic salmon. A wealth of fascinating biological and oceanographic material has been collected. The scientists have, for the first time, mapped the all-important migration and distribution routes of individual salmon stocks at sea.

The purpose of the conference is to explain some of the implications, and possible applications, of the new data for fishery managers in ways which are accessible to the non-scientist.

There has been a steep decline in abundance of Atlantic salmon throughout their range over the last thirty years to the point where mature adult returns are around 30% of what they were. As our understanding of the salmon's life-cycle has improved, it is now recognised that the main problem is reduced survival of salmon at sea. Against this background NASCO initiated the three- year SALSEA programme. SALSEA-Merge is the project component that covers lives of salmon in the North East Atlantic. AST was a major sponsor of the SALSEA-Merge programme, and one of only two non-government financial contributors.

The SALSEA-Merge data show that interactions of climate, oceanic changes and interactions between species are far more complex than could have been imagined. For example, some data arising from genetic mapping of salmon origins are starting to influence assumptions on the way the ice retreated at the close of the last ice age. It has also become clear that ocean currents have a greater influence on post-smolt dispersal than was traditionally assumed, and that the ocean is far more 'patchy' in terms of prey species abundance – with some areas of extraordinary plenty and others of scarcity. Questions as to the extent of the influence of climate change are being addressed by SALSEA scientists with the possibility of predictions for future abundance/scarcity by areas of the ocean, and these findings should enable managers to target fragile populations with greater precision than hitherto.

We hope the conference will give fishery managers, anglers and others involved in the welfare of wild Atlantic salmon the opportunity to see these remarkable animals in a wider context and to find implications and some applications for managing them better on the riverbank and along our coasts. Delegates will also learn about the extraordinary role of the wild salmon in bringing back home information about the oceanic environment, and how those data, analysed by new scientific methods in genetics, chemical analysis and scale reading, can contribute to our understanding of climate change.

The importance of the Atlantic salmon to man has been recognised throughout history. The cultural, social and economic benefits of these fish to man is beyond dispute. Over the next few years, SALSEA and its outcomes will give us a much better picture of our global and local environments. This wider understanding of the salmon as 'Canary of the Ocean' is SALSEA's major contribution, and gives us a timely reminder that we need to manage them better than we are at present.

The conference is being generously supported by The Fishmongers' Company, (www.fishhall.org.uk/) at Fishmongers Hall, their home since 1666, and is run in collaboration with NASCO/IASRB (International Atlantic Salmon Research Board).The Fishmongers’ Company’s long history of involvement with the fortunes of the Atlantic salmon now takes the form of active collaboration with all the main freshwater fisheries and salmon management bodies in the UK with the objective of helping these organisations better co-ordinate their work.

Full programme details and booking form are available here.

Conference fee £80.00.

Early bird discount of 10% available until 31st August. In addition, those making early bird bookings will have their names entered into a prize draw to win 2 days' salmon fishing for 2 rods on the South Esk.