Time for Action on Atlantic Salmon


‘Time for action’ on Atlantic salmon

Published August 21, 2017

The federal Tories are calling on the Liberal government for swifter action on rebuilding dwindling Atlantic salmon stocks.

Robert Sopuck, a Manitoba Conservative MP and vice-chair of the House of Commons standing committee on fisheries and oceans, along with several caucus colleagues, issued a statement Monday accusing the Liberals of dragging their feet on addressing the issue, despite a number of studies that have produced clear recommendations.

“All the background work is done and it’s now time to implement the recommendations of our Atlantic salmon report,” Sopuck told The Chronicle Herald.

The report he’s referring to was completed by the fisheries committee and tabled with unanimous support in January. It included 17 key recommendations aimed at mitigating the concerning decline of Atlantic salmon, such as addressing detrimental commercial overfishing of the species by Greenland during the annual migration, and allowing a significant increase in the harvest of striped bass, a major predator of Atlantic salmon smolts.

“The committee recommended a significant increase in the harvest of striped bass. The government did not do that. In fact you could look at the newspaper reports, people were upset about how truncated the season for striped bass was.”

When the federal Conservatives were in power in 2015, they also struck a ministerial advisory committee to determine the best course of action to address declining salmon returns and produced a final report that contained 61 recommendations.

“We don’t need another task force, we don’t need another study,” Sopuck said.

“It’s time for action, period.”

Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre echoed calls for action by Ottawa but said concerns about overfishing go back further than any one government.

“Could the Conservatives have done more when they were in power? Absolutely,” he said. “Have the Liberals done enough since they’ve assumed power? Absolutely not.”

Plourde said it’s especially crucial that the federal government take a hard line with Greenland, and in addition, with St. Pierre and Miquelon, when it comes to their overfishing of Atlantic salmon, calling it one of the species’ biggest threats.

“We are at a point now where (commercial fishing) shouldn’t be allowed, and Canada couldn’t bang on the table hard enough or yell loud enough in my opinion,” he said.

“The stocks are so low that no one should be killing salmon anywhere.”

Plourde pointed out that Nova Scotia anglers stopped killing Atlantic salmon several years ago. In fact, there have been no rivers in the province open to retention fishing since 2015, and only a declining number open to catch and release. And as of Aug. 6 this year, all rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador were closed to retention fishing.

With only catch and release allowed in Nova Scotia, the famous Margaree River in Cape Breton still brings in more than a million dollars of economic activity per year during the fishing season, but Plourde said even that could be at stake without swift action.

“We need federal focused attention and an understanding that we are at a crisis point. If we want to save this species then we better get on it soon,” he said.

Responding to Monday’s news release by the Conservative Party, a spokesperson for Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the government is committed to conserving Atlantic salmon, citing this year’s closure of retention fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador as one example of efforts to reduce pressure on stocks.