Keith Cormier urging caution when it comes to salmon



Keith Cormier urging caution when it comes to salmon

Dave Kearsey dkearsey@thewesternstar.com
Published on July 15, 2017

In the absence of science, Keith Cormier believes the prudent thing to do is err on the side of the salmon.

Cormier, a Corner Brook native and avid angler, serves as vice-president of the Salmon Preservation for the Waters of Newfoundland.

He loves a good feed of salmon like a lot many Newfoundland and Labradorians, but he’s not willing to put the salmon stocks in jeopardy if low returns to the river system continue to cause alarm.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is taking a serious look at recommending a ban on the harvest of Atlantic salmon because of startling low returns and that could mean catch-and-release angling for the balance of the season.

“I thought it was ice first, but the ice has been gone for three weeks so the salmon should be in the rivers in more numbers than they are,” Cormier said Friday morning.

According to Cormier, only one year ago 60 per cent of the indexed rivers were down by 30 per cent. Up to July 9 of this year, he said, rivers on the northeast coast are down in excess of 70-90 per cent and Harry’s River is seeing a 45 per cent drop in the returns compared to the same time last year.

One of Cormier’s concerns when it comes to science is that the Humber River — one of the three big rivers on the island, has no scientific data to look at outside of angling returns and observations on social media.

“How are we suppose to know exactly what is the sustainable harvest on any river?” Cormier said.

Last year, Cormier said, his organization recommended change after seeing the massive reduction in the numbers but DFO didn’t do anything about it. He said his group recommended some changes to how the tags could be used differently on some of the Class 2 Rivers last year to reduce the effort because they knew the numbers were low, but nothing was done.

“I don’t believe they gave due diligence to the minimal amount of science they had last year,” he said.

He doesn’t have all the answers as to why the numbers continue to slide, but he believes the best thing to do when there is so much uncertainty is to make some changes in the management system and if that means no more retention of salmon for the season then he will live with it.

He believes there are many factors that could affect the numbers, everything from the seiners at work to the ballooning seal population that loves to feast on Atlantic salmon.

He suggests people make a conscious effort to do their part to protect the resource and he hopes he’s wrong about what he feels is the start to a downward spiral in the numbers.

His organization is hoping to discuss the issue next week when they meet around the table.

Until then, he gave some advice to the anglers who care about the resource and want to preserve it for generations to come.

“Catch your limit but limit your catch,” he said.