CBC NEWS - NB
Miramichi anglers say bass is wiping out salmon population
Fisheries and Oceans Canada say there's no direct link between a healthy bass population and salmon decline
CBC News Posted: May 29, 2015 7:11 PM
Hundreds of anglers will be on the Miramichi River this weekend, but they'll be fishing for bass — not salmon.
"The bass fishery is killing our salmon fishery... The bass is a predator fish. It will eat everything in the river," said Jim Laws, the owner of Miramichi Electronics and Miramichi Hunting and Miramichi Fishing Supplies.
In April, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced new, mandatory-release regulations due to low salmon counts. It also made a separate announcement that there would be an additional week of retention bass fishing and 31 additional days for catch and release.
In 2000, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (which was then known as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) sought to have 22,000 young bass in the river and open the river to bass fishing. In 2013, a quarter-million spawners were counted, while the fishery has reopened.
Local fishermen say striped bass are being found where they've never been seen before and some even have salmon in their bellies.
Marc Lanteigne, a Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist, says there's no direct link between a healthy bass population and salmon decline.
Lanteigne says 66 per cent of bass studied from areas where the two species meet have empty stomachs "and for the other portion that has food in their stomachs, it's mainly smelts and gaspereau, the bulk of their food," he said.
"Salmon is about two per cent."
The latest numbers put bass at 144,000 in the Miramichi. It's a number Lanteigne calls a success story.
Salmon critical to local economy
Mark Hambrook, the president of the Miramichi Salmon Association, is looking for that kind of success with salmon.
"We can't lose sight that [the] Atlantic salmon [industry] employs 636 jobs in this area and generates $20 million in revenue and striped bass is nowhere near that. We need both in our community, and... what we [would] like to see is a good balance," he said.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada says the problem for salmon is at sea, not when they return to the river.