Dear Editor: After 12 years of success of increasing salmon in Bay St. George since 2002, it is quite surprising to see SPAWN’s new president Keith Cormier and his directors write such a damaging letter to the editor which I consider misleading to the public.
SPAWN’s Nov. 27 letter attacks the hard work put into recovering salmon by the public and volunteers organized in 2002 by DFO senior managers who had a lifetime of experience in salmon management, science, enforcement and habitat.
DFO admitted publicly in 2002 that all their best efforts failed to stop the salmon declines.
This came after their last five-year management plan in 1997 based on hook-and-release-only rivers and draft river classification ended in disaster in 2001.
In our plan, we asked DFO to open Harry’s River and all Bay St. George Rivers to retention angling.
From the start, salmon increased as opposed to their use of more and more damaging restrictions resulted in increased netting fewer salmon surviving up to 2002.
We asked DFO in January 2003 and 2004 to expand our group to include all Bay St. George since we fished and lived throughout Bay St. George and knew the problems and had a reputation for having a positive ripple effect throughout Bay St. George.
We worked with Conrad Mullins and Rex Porter and our five-year plan ended in 2006 as the most successful plan in DFO history and ended the decade in 2011 with the highest conservation achievements based on DFO data that stretched back to 1953.
This success came by being open and honest, building trust as DFO continued working with us in meetings open to everyone and not scheming behind closed doors.
SPAWN attacks our group whose success has increased salmon while making it clear they work with and support the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) whose damaging restrictions, I am convinced, led to salmon declines prior to 2002.
They support instead the ASF whose president Bill Taylor stated in Forbes in July 14, 2013, that no one should keep and kill an Atlantic salmon anymore and we must release everything we catch and never kill another one, now and forever.
Yet all these individuals of self-serving salmon groups organized across our province haven’t said a word against this or the attempt by Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada to close all of the south coast DU4 (Designated Unit) because of four small rivers on the eastern side of the south coast having problems.
I suspect they are hoping DFO will make them all hook and release only. If the endangered wildlife committee wanted, it could pressure DFO to close DU1 which includes most of the west coast including the Humber River, or for that matter, all designed units as ASF apparently wants.
I am sure people can see through SPAWN’s attempt to again try as they did in 2002 to have DFO not approve our recommendations since DFO is about to lock in their decisions in a new five-year plan with no more outside input until the end of that plan in 2018.
DFO went against them and accepted our plan in 2003 and salmon increased after years of spiraling salmon declines.
We are now asking DFO to continue this success by accepting our advice and recommendations as they did since 2003.
A river classification policy of hook and release rivers only has failed and we are asking DFO to make all rivers the same by allowing anglers to best distribute their presence.
SPAWN recommended for 2012 that all rivers flowing into Bay St. George should be allowed three salmon with the third fish in August-Sept. 7 period.
They stated this change would not require a mid-season review and would spread out the angling effort instead of concentrating it as is currently happening on Flat Bay Brook and Harry’s River.
SPAWN has now changed this for 2014-2018 by saying they favour allowing three salmon for Harry’s rivers instead of the four we got approved and have all other rivers remain at two, including Flat Bay.
What happened to allowing angler’s to distribute their effort?
SPAWN recommends opening spawning waters and unwisely using hook and release anglers to provide protection, a system we have proven increases opportunities for poachers. I believe this would be disastrous to salmon survival by increasing netting in waters that most of us now respect as spawning grounds for salmon.
SPAWN incorrectly stated they opened up the head waters above the falls on Southwest Brook to salmon. Well it’s clear that salmon always did get past the falls. Again, they incorrectly believe that hook and release anglers would mean extra protection after we proved the devastation this approach caused to salmon stocks in Bay St. George from 1997 to 2001.
With many nets removed and DFO allowing retention angling, we have seen significant increases in both small and large salmon since we started. Each year, while we can keep nets out, more grilse survive and large salmon increase.
With help from everyone, we will restore our traditional salmon angling sport as stated in our newsletters supported in trust by DFO.
Sid Styles is with the Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group and Harry's River Salmon Working Group.