Bold action needed to stem Atlantic salmon crisis
Sept. 17, 2014
SHAWN BERRY LEGISLATURE BUREAU
FREDERICTON - Two groups concerned with a dramatic drop in the number of salmon recorded along the Miramichi River are calling on Ottawa to take drastic steps to address the crisis.
“Anglers should release all the large salmon and grilse they catch and First Nations fishermen should use selective gear such as trap nets and release all large salmon. Gill nets for Atlantic salmon should be banned,” Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said in a speech Tuesday night at the Miramichi Salmon Association dinner in Fredericton.
“There should be no harvest of any kind on any salmon population that is not exceeding its minimum spawning target. There should be no harvest of mixed stocks of salmon while they migrate at sea.”
The Miramichi Salmon Association and the Atlantic Salmon Federation say the average number of salmon returns to the Miramichi River has rapidly declined from 82,000 a year in the 1990s to 23,000 a year since 2014.
“This year, with near perfect angling conditions, the returns to date appear to be even lower, with a likelihood of total returning salmon being as low as 12,000. These are frightening numbers,” said David Wilson, chairman of the Miramichi Salmon Association.
During the association’s annual dinner in Fredericton on Tuesday night, the two groups called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to appoint a multi-disciplinary task force to create a wild Atlantic salmon action plan.
“We need to take immediate action to curtail the seriously declining salmon stocks from both our river and the other rivers in New Brunswick and Eastern Canada,”Wilson said.
“That could take a number of forms. It could affect recreational fishing, it could affect the aboriginal fishing, it could affect any use of nets at all on the river,”he said.
He said they hope action will be taken soon.
“It’s already too late. So our call is for immediacy, we think this fall so that the action that is necessary to be taken can be taken in the early spring.”
He said the groups will turn to the Atlantic caucus of the federal Conservative party to get the matter addressed.
The Miramichi River system isn’t the only salmon river facing the plight. Similar declines have been recorded in Quebec and other locations in Atlantic Canada.
About 500 people were expected at the dinner, including Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward and Liberal Leader Brian Gallant.
Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield, a former federal minister for fisheries, was recognized and honoured at the event for his work on championing wild Atlantic Salmon.
Taylor stressed that the downturn in salmon numbers threatens the $40-million recreational salmon fishery with its value to the New Brunswick economy and the thousands of good seasonal and full-time jobs it provides to primarily rural areas.
He said Canada should fund and implement the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy approved in 2009, spend more on assessment and enforcement, and remove the mandate of aquaculture promotion from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is in direct conflict with wild fisheries conservation.
“Some people will argue that the matter needs further study or that there are issues at play that are beyond our control such as poor sea survival and climate change.
“While that may be true, there is ample evidence and data currently available upon which a strong and effective action plan can be based,” Taylor said.
“For starters we need to stop killing so many salmon, especially during their migration at sea and those from populations that are not exceeding their minimum conservation limits.”