N.B. Sen. Richards launches inquiry into salmon ‘crisis’
ADAM HURAS, PARLIAMENT HILL
Oct. 11, 2018
OTTAWA - A New Brunswick senator has launched an inquiry into what he say is the “decimation” of the province’s Atlantic salmon spawning grounds, contending that part of the province’s identity is now under threat.
Sen. David Adams Richards says unanswered concerns have escalated in a crisis facing the province’s salmon. He is now using a legislative tool to demand answers.
“I cannot overemphasize the crisis our Atlantic salmon are in and how, if something is not done immediately to address the situation, an entire species, way of life, hundreds of jobs and over $40 million a year will be lost,” Richards said.“The decline in the last few years is not only alarming, it is staggering.”
Richards, whose says his uncle was a salmon guide on the Matapedia and Restigouche once hired by former President Jimmy Carter, told Brunswick News he’s brought forward a “notice of inquiry” in the Senate, ultimately asking why greater efforts haven’t been taken.
The procedural move calls the attention of the Senate to a particular matter.
It’s likely to lead to a committee studying the issue in hopes the move will constitute action by next summer.
Sen. Percy Mockler has supported the effort, stating “we must intervene now in order to stop and reverse the downward spiral of what’s happening to two of the most beautiful rivers in the world (the Restigouche and the Miramichi).”
Richards wants the culling of a predatory fish currently endangering salmon.
“If not, we might lose a part of our identity,” he said.
The wild Atlantic salmon is emblazoned on the New Brunswick coat of arms.
The fish has been a denizen of the province’s rivers since time immemorial, although it now appears the province is struggling in the fight to save the species and, with it, an angling industry that once made New Brunswick the envy of the world.
Seventeen camp owners wrote a letter earlier this summer calling on Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to do more about booming predatory striped bass populations affecting endangered salmon and, ultimately, their livelihoods.
Last year, an estimated 994,000 bass spawners plied the Miramichi River.
There were just 26,900 salmon in 2017.
The salmon population in the Miramichi has declined by 26 per cent over the last 12 years, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
“The Miramichi has been imploring the government for action, has petitioned the department of fisheries and has tried to rouse attention to the decline of our salmon and the almost obscene protection of the predatory bass in our rivers,” Richards said.
A salmon catch-and-release strategy is in place in the province’s waters.
Meanwhile, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has increased daily bass bag limits and retention limits to three fish for the 2018 season. But in their letter to the feds, camp owners called for a longer catching season and daily limits to jump to six fish. The letter also recommended working with First Nations to allow an unlimited commercial striped bass harvest.
Richards contends that efforts aren’t going far enough, believing the salmon industry is “going to collapse if something is not done to cull the bass.”
“That might be a start, but it has to start now, not in three or four years’ time,” he said.“The salmon in our river systems are now up against an unrelenting and voracious predator – a predator protected by our own fisheries department and coddled over the years until its numbers so increased, it not only competes with our salmon, it annihilates them.
“This might not seem very severe to urban Canadians, but this is every bit as devastating to our Atlantic salmon, to a whole way of life and a people’s identity as clear cutting and global warming.”