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Atlantic Salmon Watch Program

Report an incident

Report all captures of Atlantic salmon to 1-800-811-6010 (toll-free).

What is the Atlantic Salmon Watch Program?

The Atlantic Salmon Watch Program (ASWP) is a research program operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The purpose of the program is to study the abundance, distribution and biology of Atlantic salmon in British Columbia and its adjacent waters. The ASWP monitors reports from commercial and sport catches and observations of Atlantic salmon throughout British Columbia. The program relies on recreational and commercial fishers, fish processors, government and independent field staff and hatchery workers to report observations of Atlantic salmon.

How do you distinguish Atlantic salmon from Pacific salmon?

Figure 1: Features of Atlantic salmon
Features of Atlantic salmon
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Figure 1: Features of Atlantic salmon

  • Black spots on gill cover
  • Black x-shaped spots above lateral line
  • Slender or pinched caudal
  • 8 to 12 rays on anal fin
  • No spots on tail
  • May have eroded fin

The key distinguishing feature of Atlantic salmon is black spots on the gill cover.

What should I do if I catch an Atlantic salmon?

Keep the fish and report the capture by calling the ASWP toll-free reporting line at 1-800-811-6010. You will be asked where and when you caught the fish and if you wish to donate the fish or part of it for research purposes. Donation is not mandatory but it does provide valuable samples for our scientific study. For whole fish donation, the entire fish, including entrails, should be frozen or kept on ice. Alternatively, the head and a small portion of the back including scales can be preserved. ASWP staff will arrange for transport of the sample.

Monitoring of Atlantic salmon escapes

The Atlantic Salmon Watch Program (ASWP) was established in B.C. in 1991. This program receives reports via a 24 hour telephone hotline and a dedicated email inbox on sightings and captures of Atlantic salmon in BC waters and documents escaped Atlantic salmon year-round. Observations reported by aboriginal, recreational and commercial fishers, processors, field biologists and hatchery workers provide valuable insight into the abundance, distribution and biology of Atlantic salmon in B.C. and surrounding areas. AWSP staff follow-up on reports and verify them either through the use of photographs or biological samples where available. The link below summarizes the reports that have been made to the ASWP since 2005.

Some have hypothesized that farmed Atlantic salmon could escape from their net pens and successfully reproduced in B.C.'s rivers. If this non-native species became established in local waters, we would see them in their multiple life stages, particularly juveniles in our coastal streams. In order to evaluate this risk, DFO's Atlantic Salmon Watch Program periodically conducts field surveys to determine if Atlantic salmon are present in B.C. waters.

DFO scientists focus their work in streams where sightings and catches have been reported to the Department.

For example, DFO conducted extensive field work in 2011 and 2012 in 12 freshwater systems on Vancouver Island. No Atlantic salmon, of any life stage, were identified. A summary report of these findings has been published in DFO's National Library (August 2015).

DFO reminds members of the public to call 1-800-811-6010 (toll-free) if they have caught or observed Atlantic salmon in B.C. waters.

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