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A   SALMON summit in La Rochelle this week has seen scientists confirming that wild Atlantic salmon are dying at sea in alarming numbers, it emerged today.

Southern stocks, including some in North America and Europe, are threatened with extinction, the summit also heard.

The  summit, a major international symposium co-convened by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (www.ices.dk), and entitled 'Salmon at Sea: Scientific Advances and their Implications for Management,' was held at L'Aquarium, La Rochelle, from October 11-13.

As many as  130 scientists and managers involved in research and management of salmon in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Baltic Sea participated.

The Atlantic salmon is seen as a unique iconic species and an indicator of healthy environments from pristine upland streams to vast oceanic feeding grounds in the North Atlantic.

And utilising new technologies, scientists are starting to unravel the mysteries of salmon in the ocean and providing managers with management options to save this fish.

But Dr Malcolm Windsor, Secretary of NASCO warned: “Unless we adopt conservation measures identified during the summit there is a real risk that Southern stocks will become extinct by 2040.”

Dr Windsor said, the goal of the SALSEA Programme, a unique collaboration between international scientists, is to increase understanding of how salmon use the ocean, where they go, how they utilise currents and the oceans, food resources and what factors influence their migration and distribution at sea.

This Programme used innovative new technologies, including genetic fingerprinting, to map the domain of salmon and identify factors affecting its survival.  This has revealed, for instance, that some of the food chain of salmon is moving further North, seemingly in response to a warming ocean. 

And because we now know where salmon are at sea, management measures could be implemented to limit impacts on them, such as fisheries for other species.

A clear message to managers in this challenging global environment was to ensure the maximum number of healthy wild salmon go to sea from their rivers.

Keeping salmon populations abundant involved addressing impact factors in freshwater, estuarine and coastal waters. These include degraded freshwater habitat, barriers to migration, over-exploitation and salmon farming.

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