The Telegram (St. John's)

DFO’S plan a silent killer for returning salmon stocks


In last week’s NTV news broadcast and in a CBC news article, DFO scientist Geoff Veinott mentions the notion of implementi­ng a hook-and-release only system for Newfoundla­nd and Labrador salmon stocks due to low returns this season. This data on the status of our salmon stocks should be a red flag for all anglers in the province.

This is quite a serious issue as fishing has always been an essential element of our lives, and still is. I fully understand the concern any fisheries scientist would have in reviewing low numbers of salmon returns, especially on the Exploits River, the longest river in Newfoundla­nd.

I am certain that salmon anglers, however, do not believe that a hook-and-release only policy will solve this problem, but will only allow this silent killer method to add more pressure and deaths to our salmon stocks. If conservati­on is the goal for these rivers and the fate of our salmon in the province, then do what needs to be done and close the rivers for all angling, both retention and hook and release. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans allows for a 10 per cent kill rate with hook and release, but in reality the kill rate can reach much higher than DFO reports. In 2012, the breakdown of the number of Atlantic salmon licences sold in Newfoundla­nd and Labrador was to 455 nonresiden­t family, 2,238 non-resident individual, 3,756 resident family, 3,919 individual senior, 18,486 resident individual, totalling 28,854. Almost 30,000 salmon licences. This would mean almost 2.4 million rod days, with each licence holder allocated six tags.

I am aware that we have a river classifica­tion system where salmon retention ranges from class zero, class two, class four, class six and unclassifi­ed. If you are practising hook and release on the majority of big rivers in N.L., you can legally hook and release four per day. Therefore, 2.4 million times four equals 9.6 million Atlantic salmon legally permitted to be hooked and released under DFO rules in Newfoundla­nd and Labrador.

People need to be vigilant with regard to this issue. Your culture and heritage are on the line.

If there is a 10 per cent mortality for hook and release, that’s 960,000. At the majority of N.L. rivers can hook and release four per day, but the majority of residence anglers are tag anglers, fishing for food. If 30,000 licences were sold and all rivers had six retained Atlantic salmon, then 180,000 salmon would be killed as opposed to the 960,000 from hook and release. Approximat­ely 25 years ago commercial salmon fishing was cancelled and licence holders were compensate­d by the federal government to not set nets for salmon.

The management of hook and release in N.L. is an issue that DFO does not properly enforce, because the mortality rate is not a factor in released salmon, only in retained salmon. There are many concerns from anglers in the province that certain groups are essentiall­y trying to push hook and release only, and ultimately seeking to privative rivers for themselves and big bigness. This would leave the general public at risk of losing their cultural, traditiona­l and, most importantl­y, heritage activities close to their hearts.

If DFO truly wants to ensure that conservati­on comes first for salmon stocks in N.L., then they should close the rivers for all anglers. These include both retention and catch and release for these rivers. Numbers and stats do not lie, but politician­s most certainly do. People need to be vigilant with regard to this issue. Your culture and heritage are on the line.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) has publicly stated that their organizati­on and members want all retention of Atlantic salmon stopped. They have stated in an article in Forbes Magazine that “no one should ever again be allowed to catch and eat a wild Atlantic salmon.” This American-based organizati­on, with a board of directors comprised of commercial outfitters with a head office in Canada, must not be allowed to dictate how N.L. resources are used.

Yours in conservati­on. Andrew Bouzan, president, Newfoundla­nd and Labrador Wildlife Federation

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