Key Findings


This unique venture, Kolarctic salmon project, between scientists, managers and commercial fishermen from Northern Norway, Finland, Northwest Russia and White Sea area, aiming at providing a better knowledge-base for the countries salmon management.

Through joint effort a unique bio-specimen sample was gathered along the North-Norwegian coast and in Russian Barents and White Sea areas, generating the most comprehensive ecological and genetic data sets for Atlantic salmon.

You may find the thematic key findings of the project on the links below and/ or in the menu to the left.


The thematic key findings of the project:

Salmon life history - ecology of the Atlantic salmon stocks of the north

Identifying the river of origin for salmon at sea

Genetic variation among northern salmon populations

The big coastal migration

Which salmon stock is caught were?

The mixed stock mystery

Intruders in the "fish pond" - Farm escapees

The safeguard for Atlantic salmon stocks - Repeat spawners

New technologies - SNP marker studies


Why salmon is important for people along the coast?

Culture and history of the traditional coastal fisheries in Norway and Russia

The border areas between Norway, Russia and Finland have unique natural qualities and natural resources. The Atlantic salmon is a symbol of healthy and vital ecosystems and is of significant economic and cultural importance, both through commercial and recreational fishing. Fishing for Atlantic salmon has a long tradition in the area, as evidenced by a unique vocabulary about the species in the Sami language, and the existence of a large number of traditional fishing methods. Because of its accurate natal homing, it is presumed that every salmon river has its own unique population and some rivers have even several unique sub-populations.



The first references of regular salmon coastal fishery in Russia are from the Pomors, fishing along the White Sea coast. This has been documented in the chronicles of Novgorod of XIII century, showing that the Pomor lifestyle on the White Sea coast has been influenced over centuries by the salmon sea fishery. The sea salmon fisheries have been the fundament for Pomor villages and settlements.

The coastal salmon fishery still remains a main source of income for Pomor villages today, however the effort in commercial coastal fisheries in the White Sea has been reduced considerably since 1990s, which aim at conserving Atlantic salmon stocks and enhancing recreational in-river fisheries.

The coastal catches in the White Sea fluctuated from around 50 tonnes in 1990s to around 30 tonnes since 2007. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Atlantic salmon is established annually. Commercial, recreational and Sami net fisheries are allowed at fishing sites only.

In Russia the Regional Commissions on Regulation of Harvesting the Anadromous Fish allocate quotas to users of fishing sites. The Territorial Directorates issue licenses for users of the fishing sites in accordance with the quota allocation.  The fishery has to stop when the allocated quota is reached.


Finnmark and Northern Norway

A multi-stock Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) sea fishery operates off the coast of Finnmark, the northernmost county in Norway, where the average annual landings the last 15-20 years have been c. 200 tonnes. This is approximately equal to the total annual river landings in the 43 Finnmark rivers, and the sum of the river and sea-fishery catch in Finnmark constitutes around 50% of the total catch of Atlantic salmon in Norway. The salmon sea-fishery in Finnmark has long cultural traditions, but has been under strong debate the last 10 years, due to the complexities involved in the potential mixed stocks harvesting, especially since Russian Atlantic salmon from many Kola Peninsula rivers are harvested during the sea-fishery along the North-Norwegian coast.

The coastal salmon fisheries along the coast of northern Norway have been an important economic and cultural factor at least since the 1800s, and in some areas such as Jarfjord and Bøkfjord even earlier. The shore-based coastal fisheries were from the beginning an integral part of a flexible combination household economy that was based on sea fisheries, reindeer husbandry and farming, supplemented by hunting and gathering.

The shore-based coastal catch in northern Norway, with bag- and bend nets, peaked during the 1950s and 1960s, driven mostly by better fishing gear and easier access to the fishery. A new peak was seen in the late 1970s/early 1980s, mostly driven by an offshore drift net fishery. In the best years, the coastal catch in Finnmark alone was close to 500 tonnes. Weakening stock status in the northern rivers led to the closure of drift nets in 1989. In the following decades, the shore-based coastal fishery has been increasingly regulated and the catches and number of active fishermen have declined rapidly, especially in Nordland and Troms.

Figure 1. Reported catches both at sea and in rivers, in Northern-Norway, Russa and Finland.


Challenges with a mixed-stock fishery, can it be solved?

NASCO has defined mixed-stock fisheries (MSFs) as fisheries exploiting a significant number of salmon from two or more river stocks. Fisheries on mixed-stocks, particularly in coastal waters or on the high seas, pose particular challenges for management, as they cannot target only stocks that are at full reproductive capacity if there are stocks below Conservation Limits (CL) within the mixed-stock being fished. Rational management of a MSF requires knowledge of the stocks that contribute to the fishery and the status of each of those stocks.

Every year a number of salmon from different rivers undertakes their spawning migration from the oceanic feeding grounds towards their home rivers. This number is called the Pre-Fishery Abundance (PFA). Management of salmon fisheries is a process of determining an exploitable proportion of the PFA and allocating it to coastal and riverine fisheries.

For each salmon stock a Conservation Limit and a Management Target should be established. These reference points define the minimum number of spawners that should survive to spawn in order for the stock to fulfill its production potential. The PFA minus the Management Target then provides the number of salmon that constitutes the sustainable exploitable surplus. Ideally, the coastal and riverine exploitation should not exceed this sustainable surplus.

Using a combination of spawning stock estimates, river catch statistics, coastal catch statistics and the stock-identified coastal data from the Kolarctic salmon project, we can estimate the PFAs of different stocks in the area. Using the PFA estimates, we can then calculate the proportion of salmon stocks that were caught in coastal and riverine fisheries, and the proportion that survived to spawning, given the current coastal and river management regimes.

The Kolarctic salmon project offers the countries management authorities with basic information and tools for development of future adaptive management regimes.