Angling for a so­lu­tion

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial -

It’s a com­pro­mise that will likely please no one. Late Mon­day, May 7, the fed­eral Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans an­nounced the rules for the up­com­ing recre­ational salmon fish­ery.

An­glers will be al­lowed to catch and keep one fish this sea­son - at least un­til a mid-sea­son re­view of the fish­ery - and will be al­lowed to catch and re­lease three salmon a day. No salmon caught in un­sched­uled wa­ters can be kept.

So, a sharply re­duced fish­ery, but still a fish­ery. Last year, an­glers could keep as many as six salmon, de­pend­ing on the rivers be­ing fished. The daily catch-and-re­lease limit was four fish, and an­glers with salmon li­cences were al­lowed to keep salmon caught in un­sched­uled wa­ters.

It is a form of mid­dle ground.

There was such a sharp re­duc­tion in the num­ber of re­turn­ing salmon on rivers where DFO counts fish that there was con­sid­er­able pres­sure to can­cel the re­ten­tion fish­ery out­right.

There was such a sharp re­duc­tion in the num­ber of re­turn­ing salmon on rivers where DFO counts fish that there was con­sid­er­able pres­sure to can­cel the re­ten­tion fish­ery out­right. If there was ever a time for a pause in fish­ing, you could ar­gue it’s right now.

Of course, you have to cue the reg­u­lar com­plaints about gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ing with an imag­ined “birthright” to catch and keep salmon, re­gard­less of the health of the stock.

The change this year comes af­ter DFO took the un­prece­dented step of clos­ing the re­ten­tion fish­ery in Au­gust and al­low­ing only catch and re­lease for the rest of the sea­son.

That came af­ter the num­ber of re­turn­ing salmon dropped by more than 30 per cent last year - on top of a sig­nif­i­cant drop in 2016.

The causes sim­ply aren’t clear. What we do know is that there are plenty of ques­tions.

Salmon leave rivers and sim­ply don’t re­turn. Are they be­ing caught or eaten by predators else­where? Are ma­te­rial changes in ocean tem­per­a­ture, salin­ity and acid­ity af­fect­ing the re­turns? Is in­ter­breed­ing with es­caped aqua­cul­ture fish low­er­ing sur­viv­abil­ity? Are there heav­ier par­a­sitic loads of things like sea lice on fish that swim near pen­stock aqua­cul­ture salmon or that in­ter­act with es­caped aqua­cul­ture fish? Are out­breaks of dis­eases in farm-grown stocks spread­ing and af­fect­ing the wild stocks?

All this comes while some ju­ris­dic­tions are get­ting out of ocean pen salmon farm­ing, oth­ers are ques­tion­ing the role of aqua­cul­ture in the spread of salmon dis­eases, and stud­ies in this prov­ince show a broad pres­ence of DNA from aqua­cul­ture fish in rivers on the is­land with wild salmon pop­u­la­tions. This, while our provin­cial gov­ern­ment is keen on get­ting fi­nan­cially in­volved in a huge salmon aqua­cul­ture project, and the provin­cial fish­eries min­is­ter ar­gues that more salmon should be caught and kept.

The so­lu­tion won’t please any­one (it’s al­ready an­gered um­brage-ready provin­cial Fish­eries Min­is­ter Gerry Byrne), but there’s a sim­ple fact: salmon num­bers are plung­ing, and we have to find out why, in­stead of ar­gu­ing about who’s got a right to catch and keep the last salmon.

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