Forget Alternative Facts and Stick to the Truth

THE TELEGRAM - Opinion  - Letter to the editor

Forget alternative facts, let’s stick to the truth

Published on July 26, 2017

Andrew Bouzan’s letter on July 20 (“DFO’s plan a silent killer for returning salmon stocks”) peddles alternative facts and salmon conspiracies.
It’s disappointing that the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation is using the current Atlantic salmon situation as an opportunity to go on the attack and mislead the public.

There is mortality associated with catch and release, but it’s not the 10 per cent that Bouzan claims. For those with an open mind, the facts are out there.

For example, a May 2017 scientific review of live release studies done on 12 Atlantic salmon rivers found 96 per cent of fish caught on a fly survived. We’ve posted this on our website, asf.ca, so people can see for themselves.

Using alternative facts, Bouzan is pushing for collective punishment over proven conservation measures that keep people on the water. Live release is always better than closures, which would effectively turn the rivers over to poachers.

His impossible math aside, the one true number Bouzan doesn’t mention is 31,000. That’s how many grilse were killed by anglers in Newfoundland and Labrador last year, even as numbers plummeted. There were also more than 37,000 salmon released, proving many already practice this conservation technique.

Bouzan also took Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) president Bill Taylor’s 2016 quote to Forbes magazine out of context. In the interview, Taylor said anglers should release all their fish to set an example for Greenlanders and First Nations. Then Taylor added, “However, I also understand that from a purely biological standpoint that if a salmon population in a river is healthy and is surpassing its spawning target every year, then there is a harvestable surplus of salmon in that one river.”

In other words, if runs are healthy, people should have a choice to keep or release. When there is no abundance there should be no harvest. Anglers, as stewards, should lead by example instead of pointing at other people and joining a race to the bottom.

Live release aside, Bouzan’s most outrageous claim is that ASF is behind some shadow conspiracy to privatize Newfoundland rivers. This is pure nonsense. By what mechanism and to what end? He is trying to create a scapegoat, and perpetuate an “us and them” mentality.

ASF is us, not them. We have hundreds of members in Newfoundland and Labrador, a regional office in Corner Brook, and eight affiliated local organizations. We’ve held the provincial government to account on aquaculture, we’re spending research dollars to start a new study river in Labrador for our ocean tracking program, and we’ve launched a comprehensive fish health survey that will include the province.

We’re proud to be an international organization. The fact we have both a Canadian and American board, and members from around the world, proves that Atlantic salmon matter a great deal to many people. This should be celebrated, not panned. We value all anglers and all rivers.

If DFO suspends the recreational harvest because of plummeting Atlantic salmon returns, we will support that because it’s the right thing to do. If Bouzan wants to stop fishing altogether, that’s his choice. But don’t drag everyone else down too.

Live release aside, Bouzan’s most outrageous claim is that ASF is behind some shadow conspiracy to privatize Newfoundland rivers. This is pure nonsense.

Neville Crabbe
Director of communications
Atlantic Salmon Federation