Prince Edward Island is a tough place to live when you are a fish, says Todd Dupuis of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
On Monday, the federation released a study of Atlantic salmon conducted by Gardner Pinfold Consulting Economists Ltd. of Halifax. The report finds total spending on salmon fishing in Atlantic Canada to be $166 million in 2010.
This amount created 3,873 full-time equivalent jobs and $128 million in income.
ASF asked the federal department of fisheries to consider providing an additional $15 million in funding to help conserve wild Atlantic salmon stocks.
Dupuis, ASF’s executive director of regional programs, said Tuesday the total gross domestic product of wild salmon in P.E.I. is $1 million.
“It shows what the fishery is worth on P.E.I. It encompasses everything, what the government spends, what the community groups spend for the restoration work,” he said.
The fishery in P.E.I. is quite small compared to what it used to be, he said.
“There was one time where probably 80 rivers on P.E.I. had Atlantic salmon, now we only have about 20 rivers. The industry could be much bigger. If we were to do some restoration on some of our river systems so that the fishery was at least what it was 20 years ago.”
Prince Edward Island has issues with land use, siltation and pesticide problems and while the community groups are doing great work, more can be done, he said.
“Economic wise, if we were to spend a little more time trying to get these rivers back into shape, resolve some of our land use issues, we may have a fishery worth more than $1 million.”
Dupuis said P.E.I. has a proud heritage of salmon fishing.
“There was a day when he had a lot of salmon here. Back in the 1800s we were shipping a million salmon eggs a year off the Island to hatcheries. In the 1700s, the French, who where the first settlers of P.E.I., were shipping boatloads off to France.”
He says the fishery can come back.
“The community groups, these watershed groups that are doing great work, if they continue on and they’re well enough funded, there’s chance we could get back, maybe not what it was 100 years ago, but what it was 50 years ago with some effort.”
Currently, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans spends $12 million on wild Atlantic salmon, but in 1985 it spent $25 million, he said.
“They have reduced their budget over the last 25 to 30 years...they’re spending less. At the same time, the stock is in decline. We are just asking DFO to come back to their levels in 1985.”
When stock is declining, it’s not the time to decrease resources but rather increase them, or else risk the fish going extinct, he said.
“It’s time to step up to the plate and start looking at what’s really happening and do research into the ocean and find out what’s going on in the ocean (to make salmon numbers drop).”
As of Tuesday, DFO has not responded to the request for additional funding.