Trial Season for Striped Bass?


Editorial: Trial season for striped bass would make sense
Apr. 15, 2013

The Miramichi Salmon Association is hoping its concerns and recommendations about striped bass will be heeded by the federal fisheries minister.

The striped bass is currently a protected species and therefore illegal to fish. Subsequently, their numbers have been growing. The problem is they are also predatory — according to the association’s research, striped bass are adversely affecting the salmon population, because of them eating the smolts or baby salmon.

The salmon association wants the implementation of a recreational fishery for striped bass or at least a trial season, given that a recent study by the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation shows that the number of striped bass are now 100 times or more exceeding the minimum requirement for a recreational fishery.

A meeting to express these concerns was recently held involving salmon association representatives and Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials.

Dialogue is good because as is sometimes the case, the angling association and DFO don’t always have the same viewpoint.

The department has up until now claimed the striped bass species is too fragile to warrant a recreational fishery, but is now considering the possibility after hearing the concerns of the Miramichi Salmon Association and others.

That’s welcome news for Mike Hambrook, president of the Miramichi Salmon Association, who said his association won’t be happy until the species, which is predatory to salmon, is removed from the protected list.

“It’s a lot of bureaucracy, I mean from what we’ve seen so far those regulations do very little to help any stock,” he said in a story that appears in today’s Miramichi Leader.

“Areas on the most serious level of the endangered species act for over 20 years and they still haven’t been able to address the problem. We aren’t very pleased with the species at risk legislation.”

Mr. Hambroke has also voiced the association’s concerns in a four-page letter sent to federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.

“The MSA is concerned about having 200,000 striped bass in the northwest Miramichi during the time the salmon smolts are migrating out to sea,” he wrote. “There are only 500,000 to 600,000 smolts and the bass are eating voraciously at this time of year. Thankfully, there are millions of smelts in the river and the bass are feeding heavily on them. But if each bass only ate only one smolt, it could reduce the number of smolts by 50 per cent on the northwest at a time when sea mortality is high on smolts from all rivers.”

We hope all the evidence and facts are carefully weighed because of the importance of the salmon fishery to the Miramichi region in relation to tourism. Furthermore, striped bass fishing would presumably be another draw for anglers as it’s another species that could be caught.

The suggestion of a trial season for striped bass, where fishermen could catch and keep at least one bass each, would certainly seem a logical compromise for this year to see how things go.

In the meantime, keeping the lines of communication open between the association and DFO is important — for the collective good of our region.