SPAWN believes in salmon conservation and equal access

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Opinion - Letter to the Editor

SPAWN believes in salmon conservation and equal access to all rivers and watersheds

Published on November 27, 2013

Dear Editor: With respect to information contained in a recent submission to DFO by the Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group there are a few points SPAWN would like to address, as follows:

Firstly, it is our position that management protocols must be based on the best science available, with conservation and protection of the salmonid resource priority number one. Evidently the Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group does not share this philosophy, rather under the guise of conservation they continue to promote a concept of not only killing more grilse in the rivers they supposedly steward, they clearly want to target the bigger, genetically superior fish as well.

Their use of flawed historical data to compare with recent accurate stock data for Harry’s River to portray a success story is questionable to say the least. Simply stated this is purely a game of smoke and mirrors.

The historical data they reference for comparison was based on the application of hypothetical models using trap data from a Harry’s tributary (Pinchgut), in combination with angler logs and for a few years redd surveys. Statistics, unless they are soundly based on good science, can be very dangerous, misleading and manipulated to portray an agenda.

As an example, a review of the history of the Harry’s River story will reference years when there were more fish actually harvested in the system than pass through the DIDSON counter today; therefore an argument could easily be made that at this time we are not yet anywhere near the escapement required to meet its full spawning potential. If those stats were applied, it would be absolutely foolhardy to entertain any increased retention fishery for this system.

It is, and has been for several years, SPAWN’s contention that the only way to determine the success of recent management measures is to continue to operate the full river system counter using the DIDSON technology but also the trap should be reinstalled on the Pinchgut tributary.

Then, and only then, could real numbers confirmed entering the river be statically compared to the numbers reaching their spawning grounds today versus the many years the Pinchgut trap was previously operated by DFO. The results of such a comparative exercise would provide a solid basis for future management decisions for the entire system. The Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group also contend that the numbers of large fish in the system have increased by over 300 per cent under their management program. Given the fact all previous data they make comparisons to is primarily related to the historical DFO data from the Pinchgut tributary, which was never known for producing many large fish, it is very difficult to accept this boast in a reliable manner.

SPAWN adamantly opposes the suggestion that Harry’s River serve as an index system for any of its neighbouring rivers. This concept is ludicrous and has very dangerous implications. As a case in point, by all reports Flat Bay river this past season had very dismal returns yet, since it is presently linked to the in-season review for Harry’s, which achieved moderate success, it was subject to the very real potential of an increased harvest.

Such a decision would have very detrimental  long term implications to the continued recovery of the Flat Bay River stock. It is our understanding that the Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group is basically an expansion of what was once a stewardship association for Harry’s River. How it is that such a group can claim any special right or voice over another that is outside of their immediate geographic region by virtue of a simple name change? This is an important question and deserving of address.

Towards the end of their recent submission a reference is made to revising the management plan to apply their recommendations to every river in zone 13, including, and by name, the Humber and Codroy River systems.

Is it not the case that specific river stewardship programs by definition imply a geographically focused effort?

In addition to the above concerns we respectfully ask that the following recommendations be considered for inclusion on future management plans:

1 All Bay St. George rivers open for Class III with two fish retention permitted.

2 That Harry’s River continues as a special management system with a Class III designation. A special management initiative should consider replacing the in-season review with the allowance of an additional fish during the month of August (i.e. Class III + one tag for August).

3 The upper sections of all Bay St. George rivers presently closed to all angling be opened for catch and release angling to encourage angler activity and most importantly act as a deterrent to poaching. This recommendation extends to include the Pinchgut tributary of Harry’s.

4 Reinstall a counting facility on the Pinchgut tributary of Harry’s River.

5 Reconsider SPAWN’s request to change the present river classification system to link with retention limit (i.e. class 6 = 6 fish, class 3 = 3, etc.) . There are many benefits to this, not the least of which is to add greater flexibility to future management initiatives (i.e. increase or decrease retention by factors of 1 vs. the present factor of two).

SPAWN believes first and foremost in salmon conservation and equal access to all our rivers and watersheds.

Keith Cormier for the SPAWN board of directors