GB No. 4(23)/96


The wild Baltic salmon is threatened by sickness, pollution and over-exploitation. Coalition Clean Baltic calls for a time out, now, to consider a new strategy for managing the wild Baltic salmon.

The greatest threat to the Baltic salmon is M 74 syndrome. First observed in 1974, M 74 syndrome is a mortal threat to the Baltic salmon. The result of pollutants in the Baltic, M 74 causes extremely high mortality rates in Baltic salmon fingerlings. Researchers have successfully treated the symptoms with thiamin (vitamin B1) in fish farms: but giving wild salmon the vitamin is not feasible.

Another threat to the wild salmon is overexploitation by commercial fishing by many of the Baltic countries. The majority of the Baltic salmon are taken offshore in driftnets before they have the chance to reach maturity. Most of the remaining salmon are taken by coastal netters before they reach their spawning streams. Sweden's great rivers could produce almost ten times as many salmon as they do today if more spawning were permitted!

The lifecycle of the salmon makes them particularly vulnerable. Young salmon spend the first two to four years in their river, and are called "smolt" when they finally leave. After growing large and fat on herring offshore for one to four years, they return to their birth river to spawn. Each river has its own unique salmon population, which have adapted to this river over thousands of years. A river which loses its salmon population suffers an irreplaceable loss.

It is the salmon's ability to return to its own specific river, however, that gives us the possibility of saving it. By regulating commercial fishing to a selective fishing at the mouth of these rivers, authorities could ensure that each population was being harvested in numbers that would still allow for the salmon to reproduce and replace their numbers.

The Baltic salmon could again become an invaluable resource for the Baltic Sea countries. At present, however, it is a resource wasted and wasting away, due to short-sighted and improper fishing policies. Utilised correctly, the Baltic salmon could be a source of jobs, recreation, foreign tourism and joy.

Commercial fishing today harvests around 500,000 salmon per year. An effective fishery policy, coupled with disciplined, selective harvesting could double this number within twenty years. The methods described to reach these goals are well-proven in other areas around the world. But, the political will must take action now.

Coalition Clean Baltic is working in countries all around the Baltic for the protection of the Baltic Sea Environment, and can be contacted at:

CCB c/o Swedish Society for Nature Protection,
Box 4625, S-116 91 Stockholm,
tel.: +46 8 702 65 00,
fax: +46 8 702 08 55

reprinted from the Coalition Clean Baltic publication

GB No. 4(23)/96 | Contents