Capelin Seining near Pinware Raises Salmon Concerns

CBC News - NL

Capelin seining near Pinware River stokes concerns about salmon

By Lindsay Bird, CBC News Posted: Jul 07, 2016 9:01 PM NT

Businesses and conservationists alike are sounding the alarm about the amount of seining in Pinware Bay, close to the mouth of Pinware River in southern Labrador, just as its salmon migration reaches full swing.

"This is a very, very small bay. With the number of seiners that they have there, when they seine all together, they completely close the access to the river, to any fish," said Paul-Aimé Joncas, who owns the Lucky Strike Lodge, a fishing retreat upstream on the Pinware River.

Joncas said he's seen anywhere between three to 12 seiners in the bay at once, with vessels up to 100 feet long, fishing for capelin — the most he's seen in 40 years spent in southern Labrador.

"I'm sure they're not intending to take salmon, but there's a simple logic there: you should not interfere with the migration of salmon."

The Atlantic Salmon Federation, a non-profit conservation group, said it has been raising this issue for years.

"To have these seiners operating within a couple hundred yards of the mouth of these rivers at this time of the year is disgraceful," Don Ivany, the ASF's director in Newfoundland and Labrador, told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"It should not be happening. Seiners are definitely going to intercept these fish, and if not, are certainly going to disturb those fish and probably prevent them or delay them from entering those rivers."

DFO response

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans does have an area near the mouth of the river closed to all fishing activity, with signs up to inform people, and says it is actively monitoring the area.

"Fishery officers conducting patrols and at-sea observers have not observed any fishing activity inside the closed areas," the department wrote in a statement to CBC.

Concerns about the seiners accidentally catching salmon raised in 2015 were investigated, but DFO said no charges were laid.

Ivany isn't surprised, and said the staff simply isn't there to provide adequate policing.

"There's very little enforcement activity in southern Labrador, There's been a lot of cutbacks within the DFO budget particularly in the enforcement division in recent years."

'Bewildered' by inaction

Ivany wants to see DFO take further steps against the seining activity.

"We can't blame the fishermen. The fishermen are doing what they do, they're trying to make a living and they're trying to catch fish... this really is a DFO issue," he said, adding the vessels should be regulated into giving salmon rivers a much wider berth at this time of year.

"That's something I think can be done with the stroke of a pen, and I'm bewildered as to why something hasn't been done sooner."

Joncas would like to see the restrictions go a step further, with no seining in the small bay at all.

"I think it should be forbidden to seine anywhere, from at least five to 10 kilometres from the mouth of any salmon river, in Labrador or in Canada," he told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

DFO said it has consulted with industry about extending the closed area at the river's mouth, and this proposal will be discussed at it's next meeting on the subject in March 2017, a timeline frustrating to both Joncas and Ivany.

"Our patience is running thin on this issue. Something needs to be done," said Ivany.