Advocate wants new rules for salmon river
Parks Canada says it’s managing the resource for the greater good
Northwest River in Terra Nova National Park has long been a cause for concern among anglers, fisheries managers and biologist.
A river once abundant with salmon, the electronic salmon fence registered 152 fish in 1995. Recently the salmon have made a comeback, thanks to collaboration between local anglers and Parks Canada.
In last seven years at least 1,000 fish have headed back up the Northwest River each year to lay eggs. As the fish returned, so did those who wanted to put their lines in the water.
The Northwest River Conservation Group has issued 100-250 salmon fishing licences in the past few years, based on consultation with the Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DFO) and Parks Canada, allowing for two salmon per person.
This year’s angling season opened June 1 and runs until July 15. Access to the 150 licences was decided through a draw system. Those wishing for a chance to fish the river could enter their name with a chance to be selected at random.
Chris Newman, president of Friends of Shoal Harbour River (FOSHR), doesn’t agree with Parks Canada’s management of the river.
He says only a small section of the river runs through Parks Canada land and it’s unfair of the department to lay claim to the whole river.
“It’s been privatized for quite some time. It’s the only river, of my knowledge, that has that privatization feeling. Amongst salmon anglers it’s a bad topic,” Newman said.
He says he has tried to reason with Parks Canada.
“I am the president of FOSHR and I tried to get them to (hear) my views on what science I’ve learned in applying catch-and-release, as opposed to the catch-and-kill or catch-and-retain system they have in place,” says Newman.
“Because, if you release a fish, then at least it would have a chance at survival instead of killing it.”
He said his view is shared by many in the Clarenville area. But not all salmon fishers agree.
Monroe Greening, vice-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation, doesn’t agree with catch and release.
“As far as I’m concerned, catch and release should be banned altogether,” he said.
“It’s a destruction of salmon. The mortality rate as they are saying right now is up around 10 per cent. When hook and release is on the go in summer time and there’s warm temperatures in the water, there’s about 60 per cent mortality rate on salmon.”
But Greening does agree with Newman regarding Parks Canada’s use of the draw system.
“There’s a lot of salmon going into the Northwest River, and as far as I’m concerned, the DFO and park should open that river up and let people fish the river,” Greening said.
He suggested there be a limit of 300 salmon on the river, with anyone being allowed to fish, and once the quota is caught the river would close for the season.
“If the water temperatures rise they should close the rivers. But I think everyone should have the same opportunity to have a licence to fish that river,” Greening said.
He added if the authorities don’t want to give a licence to everybody then they should just close the river altogether.
Karen Wolfrey, acting field unit superintendent for Parks Canada, said via email that in managing the recreational salmon fishery on the Northwest River, Parks Canada’s primary concern is to ensure the protection of the river’s ecological integrity and the health and long-term sustainability of its salmon population.
“Through effective management of the river and the efforts of individuals, volunteers and organizations such as the Northwest River Conservation Group, the salmon population on the Northwest River has increased to the point where a limited recreational salmon fishery has taken place on the river each year since 2003,” said Wolfrey.
“The number of licences approved for the Northwest River fishery in 2014 provides anglers an opportunity to participate in this recreational activity while protecting the resource for future generations.”
She contends that the draw system used this year allowed for equal access among anglers. In all, 226 names were submitted and the draw was held May 21. Names were selected through a random number generator to ensure impartiality.
“Of the 150 licences distributed through the draw system, approximately 41 per cent went to anglers from Clarenville, 31 per cent to anglers from the Avalon Peninsula, 17 per cent to anglers from communities adjacent to Terra Nova National Park, seven per cent to anglers from the remainder of Newfoundland and Labrador and two per cent to out of province anglers,” she added.
A salmon counting fence that operated from 1995 to 2011 established a long-term data set, she said, which supports the management measures in place.
Newman, though, still wants to see changes made.
He intends to contact Environment Canada, which is responsible for Parks Canada, to outline his concerns.
Meanwhile, he’s holding a meeting June 18 at the St. Jude Hotel in Clarenville to allow people who share their concerns.