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Minister Promises Action on Greenland and River Management

 TELEGRAPH JOURNAL - A3

Minister promises action on Greenland, local salmon fisher
y

JOHN CHILIBECK LEGISLATURE BUREAU

FREDERICTON - Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc says he’s heard the concerns of salmon anglers and hopes New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will have a river-by-river management system by next season.

He’s also organizing a meeting in Shediac of all the fisheries ministers of North Atlantic countries at the end of August. Part of those discussions in his home riding of southeastern New Brunswick will be about Greenland.

Greenland has for the last few years harvested large wild Atlantic salmon that normally would travel back to their home rivers in the Maritimes and elsewhere to deposit eggs and ensure the survival of the species. This year the northern country plans on taking 14,000 large salmon.

The Greenlandic fisheries minister is expected to attend this summer’s meeting.

A river-by-river management system would allow local anglers to catch and keep grilse -- salmon that have been out to sea one winter -- from rivers and tributaries deemed healthy enough to sustain the species.

“My hope would be for it to be in place next season,” LeBlanc said following a speaking engagement in Fredericton on Wednesday. “The economic impact of the sport fishery is huge. It provides hundreds and hundreds of jobs in communities that don’t have a lot of employment opportunities. So I’m prepared to use federal resources to do what’s required.”

He said there was no absolute guarantee river-by-river management would be in place by next season, but that was the goal.

For the past three seasons, Ottawa has imposed a blanket ban on catching and keeping grilse in the Gulf of St. Lawrence area, which includes the Maritimes. The move has angered plenty of local anglers, who argue they are making a big sacrifice for nothing while Greenlanders, Quebecers, Labradorians and the French at Saint Pierre and Miquelon near Newfoundland continue to harvest large,multi-sea-winter salmon.

Only First Nations in New Brunswick are allowed to catch and keep wild salmon.

Tom Pettigrew, an official with the newly-formed Coalition for Better Atlantic Salmon Management in New Brunswick, said in a recent interview Ottawa had to do more.

“We’re calling on the federal government to stop the harvest of large salmon in First Nations fisheries while stocks are low. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Greenland fisherman, a First Nations fisherman or an angler, they all depend on one and the same thing, and that’s fish and eggs being put in the river gravel. And if we’re not putting enough eggs in the gravel, then ultimately all three fisheries will decline.”

But the minister said Wednesday the Canadian courts had established for nearly 30 years that indigenous groups have the right to catch wild salmon for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

“We respect as a government indigenous rights,” LeBlanc said. “We think that the previous practice of forcing indigenous groups to go to court all the time and assert their rights was not necessarily the best way to build long-term relationships and reconciliation.”

The minister said in his meetings with indigenous leaders, he’s been assured that they care about conservation and are willing to make some sacrifices.

“They recognize that it’s not a good practice to take the last salmon out of a certain river,” he said. “They have for a long time shown a great deal of insight into conservation measures.”

LeBlanc added that he was looking into ways the government could use other commercial fisheries stocks y that would allow First Nations to pursue a different species that weren’t as vulnerable.

“We’re having ongoing conversations with indigenous leaders every week about conservation measures,” he said.