Straight Talk on Salmon

The Telegram - Opinion - Letter to the editor

Straight Talk on Salmon
Published on April 27, 2015

I would like to respond to a letter written by Ward Samson that was published on April 18 in The Telegram (“Will we still be able to keep our salmon?”).

Samson is correct when he indicates that there will be no retention of wild Atlantic salmon in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or P.E.I. in 2015. What Samson doesn’t say in  is why that decision was made in the Maritimes.

Was it because stocks were healthy in those provinces and DFO simply didn’t want anyone to retain a salmon, as Samson would like everyone to believe? Of course not.

Wild salmon stocks have declined to dangerously low levels in those regions in recent years. There has been extensive pressure for DFO to do something about the declines. Fisheries Minister Gail Shea responded to that pressure by appointing a committee to conduct four separate meetings in Atlantic Canada and Quebec for input on how best to address the declines.

So, just how bad is the situation in Maritime rivers? To put things in perspective, none of the DFO monitored rivers in New Brunswick met their minimum conservation limits in 2014. The Miramichi, which just 10 years ago had more than 65,000 adult salmon returning annually, had fewer than 20,000 returning in 2014. Returns in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. were also low.

After consulting with key players, Shea heeded the advice she had received. She announced there will be no retention of salmon (small or large) in the recreational fisheries in the Maritimes in 2015. The decision was made with full public support and apparently for all the right reasons — to help stop the decline and give stocks a chance to recover.

The ministerial advisory committee will hold consultations in St. John’s later this month and in Quebec City in May. Returns have been declining sharply in Quebec in recent years and only 33 per cent of the rivers monitored there met minimum conservation limits in 2014.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, stocks have also been declining with only 43 per cent of the monitored rivers in this province meeting minimum conservation limits in 2014.

It should be pointed out that these consultations include input not just on recreational fisheries, but on harvests by First Nations, Greenland and St-Pierre-Miquelon fisheries, as well as research and enforcement issues.

While we are often quick to point the finger at Greenland, where 47 tonnes of salmon were harvested in 2013, or St-Pierre -Miquelon, where 5.3 tonnes of salmon were harvested in 2013, the truth is that Canada harvested 136 tonnes of salmon in 2013. Most of that was harvested by the recreational fishery at 75 tonnes, followed by aboriginal harvests at 59 tonnes, and 2 tonnes for the Labrador resident food fishery.

Of the 75 tonnes of salmon harvested in the recreational fishery, the highest portion by far was harvested in this province, at 28,000 fish in 2013.

Samson asks the question, is this the last year for hook and cook? I hope it doesn’t come to that. If all the harvesting sectors, including the recreational anglers, reduced their annual harvest to a reasonable level, maybe our wild salmon stocks would stand a chance at surviving in the long term.

Don Ivany, director, Newfoundland and Labrador programs, Atlantic Salmon Federation.