OPEN Scientific reports | 21 Jul 2016
HJ Lenders, TP Chamuleau, AJ Hendriks, RC Lauwerier, RS Leuven and WC Verberk
The collapse of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) stocks throughout North-Western Europe is generally ascribed to large-scale river regulation, water pollution and over-fishing in the 19(th) and 20(th) century. However, other causes have rarely been quantified, especially those acting before the 19(th) century. By analysing historical fishery, market and tax statistics, independently confirmed by archaeozoological records, we demonstrate that populations declined by up to 90% during the transitional period between the Early Middle Ages (c. 450-900 AD) and Early Modern Times (c. 1600 AD). These dramatic declines coincided with improvements in watermill technology and their geographical expansion across Europe. Our extrapolations suggest that historical Atlantic salmon runs must have once been very abundant indeed. The historical perspective presented here contributes to a better understanding of the primary factors that led to major declines in salmon populations. Such understanding provides an essential basis for the effective ecological rehabilitation of freshwater ecosystems.
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