Mar. 13, 2017
Angling changes eyed by minister
JOHN CHILIBECK LEGISLATURE BUREAU
A longstanding demand of New Brunswick salmon anglers is in the offing: moving to a river-by-river management system that would allow some of them to keep their catch again.
For the upcoming season, federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc says it’s too early to say whether anglers will be allowed to keep grilse, or juvenile salmon, on New Brunswick’s famed runs, such as the Miramichi, the Dungarvon, the Restigouche, the Upsalquitch and the Kedgwick.
But beyond this year, he says he’d like to go to the river-by-river management system that’s been used for a long time in Quebec. Unlike in New Brunswick, which has banned anglers from keeping large salmon for three decades and the smaller ones for the past two years, Quebec allows a limited harvest of both large salmon and grilse on certain runs that are deemed healthy enough.
“The department is not in a position to go authoritatively toward a river-by-river management system, but that’s where I’d like to get,” LeBlanc said in an interview with Brunswick News. “I have to talk to the province because they have a key role to play in that, but if they see the benefit of that as I do, I think that’s the best way to get the New Brunswick salmon fishery on a better footing.”
Salmon fishing is still big business in the province, which has attracted legions of wealthy visitors for more than a century to the sport.
But sales of salmon angling licences to locals dropped by nearly half over the last two years. Many New Brunswickers who angle want to keep their catch.
Scientists in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have taken a cautionary approach, recommending no juvenile salmon be taken from the rivers because not enough of them have been returning from sea.
Outfitters such as Jerry Doak, the owner of W.W. Doak fish tackle shop in Doaktown, have condemned Ottawa’s blanket policy for rivers of the Gulf of St. Lawrence region, which includes New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
“We know that every other threat, whether seal, striped bass, cormorants, mergansers, sea birds, Greenland, St. Pierre and Miquelon, gaspereau nets, or gill nets all appear to be untouchable,” he told the Fisheries and Oceans parliamentary committee last May.“We have grown tired of being the only touchable, just as a dog grows tired of being kicked by a man trying to look tough.”
The fisheries minister said he didn’t know whether the scientists would once again recommend a catch-and-release fishery this spring.
LeBlanc said he expected to see a report in the coming weeks and would make a decision soon. The fishing season begins April 15.
“The Quebec model is in many ways a best practice,” he said.“In terms of science and sustainable management, but also the best model in terms of taking advantage of economic opportunity. Because the best science model you have, the more able you are to make management decisions that allow outfitters to maximize the economic impact, right?”
With the additional money that Ottawa put into scientific study of salmon last year and the big funding announcement Friday of $325 million for an Atlantic fisheries fund, LeBlanc says there’s greater ability to move to a river-by-river management system.
Meanwhile, plans are underway for LeBlanc and the Atlantic provinces’ four fisheries ministers to travel to Greenland this spring to try to convince the Arctic country to stop commercial harvesting of large wild Atlantic salmon, the majority of which come from Canadian rivers.
The Greenlanders kill salmon without knowing where they come from, putting rivers with dwindling stocks at great risk of collapse.
“Greenland understands our concerns,” LeBlanc said.
“But this is why even the retention debate is important and the scientific investment.
“If I’m to ask Greenland to change their fisheries management plan, I have to go to them with our house in order. I have to go to them with an increased effort on scientific research and habitat protection in Canada. That gives me more moral authority with the government of Greenland.”
– With files from Adam Huras
Atlantic salmon researcher Jonathan Carr displays a satellite tracker attached to a salmon which collects data on migrating fish before it pops off and delivers that data to researchers. PHOTO: ATLANTIC SALMON FEDERATION