The World Wide Fund for Nature says stocks of
Atlantic salmon have reached their lowest-ever levels.
In the last 25 years, WWF says, salmon numbers
have fallen from 800,000 to 80,000.It says urgent action is needed to save the species from extinction, and wants science-based catch limits.
WWF says it is commercial fisheries in the United Kingdom and Ireland that are catching most of the salmon today.
Representatives of member governments of the North
Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO)
are gathering in Canada for the group's next meeting.
Its members are Canada, Denmark, the European
Union, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the US.
NASCO assesses the status of wild salmon
populations and develops policies to protect them.
WWF "strongly urges NASCO members to follow the
advice of scientists and adopt all necessary measures
to restore runs of wild Atlantic salmon".
Over the last century, it says, salmon have
disappeared from more than 75% of Baltic rivers, and
catches in Scotland and Ireland today are roughly
25% of what they were in 1970.
WWF says human activities are to blame for all the
problems besetting the species.
It singles out:
dams and other river engineering works which
block the fish from passage to suitable
spawning grounds industrial, domestic and agricultural pollution salmon farming, which WWF says spreads
diseases and parasites to wild populations. It
says almost a million farmed salmon escape
annually in Norway alone. Interbreeding
between farmed and wild stocks is also a
problem, and WWF says the possible introduction of genetically-modified salmon "could eventually wipe out wild stocks".
WWF is also concerned
about what are called "mixed-salmon fisheries" -
the practice of catching fish indiscriminately from
several rivers, some of which may contain healthy
stocks while others do not.
Henning Roed, of WWF-Norway, who is
co-ordinating the group's research, told BBC News
Online: "The only answer is to close the mixed fisheries altogether. "There is no other way to safeguard salmon in rivers where stocks are already low.
"We want NASCO to agree catch limits based on
scientific recommendations. Several countries where
open-ocean salmon fishing used to go on - Norway,
Greenland and Canada - have bought out their fleets.
"It's mainly fleets from the UK and Ireland that are
continuing to do it, within their territorial waters. So it's a matter for their national governments.
"The Faroese, who caught just eight tonnes of salmon
last year, are threatening to resume it on a larger
scale if the UK and Ireland don't cut back."