Salmon stocks: We’ve proven our way works

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Dear Editor: The Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group (BSGSSG) agrees in part with SPAWN article of Oct. 18, 2011 which disagrees with river classification —  finding it confusing and cumbersome which was drafted under their involvement with the other professional individuals organized across our province in 1999. It failed ... and we believe it should be eliminated.

We didn’t reply earlier to SPAWN’s article about this topic because we were waiting to discuss it with SPAWN at DFO’s Resource Management meeting in Gander Oct. 20, where groups presented their recommendations for discussion.

SPAWN didn’t attended and their plan wasn’t presented for discussion. We then waited for DFO’s Salmonid Advisory Committee meeting Jan. 11, in St. John’s only to find it wasn’t in the recommendations given out and wasn’t brought up for any discussion again.

Given a seat to speak

As chair of the Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group I did manage to read most of their recommendations after I was given a seat by the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation to speak at the table.

After reading SPAWN’s recommendations, their affiliates didn’t speak up or offer any support, and when I asked their representative Don Hutchens of the Salmonid Council Newfoundland-Labrador why he didn’t read out SPAWN’s paper in Gander, he didn’t reply.

Were SPAWN’s recommendations made in the public supporting our efforts of regaining more anglers on all Bay  St. George rivers for the complete season sincere?

Why wasn’t there any effort to pursue behind closed doors by them or their affiliates what they had offered in the public?

The 1999 classification policy failed to stop salmon declines.

Neither did the five-year management plan from 1997 to 2001 which made six rivers hook and release only in Bay St. George which eliminated local anglers from rivers and resulted in total chaos of netting by poachers.

The Harry’s River Salmon Working Group was organized in June 2002 and created a five-year plan as requested by DFO.

It halted the previous decades of salmon declines while increasing both anglers and salmon by reopening rivers to retention angling.  In 2006 our plan was recognized as the most successful five-year management plan in the history of DFO.

SPAWN’s rationale was that by increasing retention levels on all Bay St. George rivers without a mid-season review — as we have asked — it would spread out the angling effort instead of concentrating it as is now happening on Flat Bay Brook and Harry’s River.

We recommended that for 2012 there should be a quota of four salmon without a review for all rivers in Bay St. George and Fox Island using our proven rationale and successful plans. SPAWN differed only  in that it recommended three salmon.

Other self-serving groups are against both plans and are pressuring for hook and release only.

A step forward

SPAWN’s acknowledging that there are not enough hook and release anglers to provide any effective protection for the rivers when there are no local anglers is a step forward.  Hook-and-release angling is uncontrollable, unenforceable and unacceptable ... and leads to increased illegal netting.

This is now being blamed for damaging salmon stocks ... as we have clearly shown.

SPAWN suggesting that anglers are not fishing many of the rivers in Bay St. George in late July and August because of the current regulations and a change in classification would permit anglers to retain fish on all the Bay St. George rivers instead of being forced to concentrate their angling efforts on only two.  This is encouraging and a shift from what they supported in the 1997 five-year plan. The rods of anglers were never responsible for the salmon declines.

We stepped up and rebuilt the salmon stocks through honest effort that people knew was helping as we gained trust for DFO and the support of the people.

It is time for us together to prevent rules against local anglers being promoted behind closed doors by the concerted efforts of individuals for the good of businesses. I ask SPAWN to join us to save our salmon angling sport for local anglers everywhere.

The increase in anglers and interest is providing a higher economic value from our own people, benefiting local businesses as it once was.

For the clients of business people who do not want to come here to fish alongside us and wanting the rivers to themselves, I says please stay where you are. We don’t want or need this kind of greed to own our richest and most bountiful resource — our salmon rivers.

This province is first

We have upwards to 70 per cent of all salmon producing waters in North America and over 70 per cent of salmon, making our province the envy of everywhere else. It is first and foremost our significant resource.

Bay St. George is the best area with rivers from the Codroy River to Harry’s River thriving with salmon. Being at the gateway to our province, it suffered in the past from attempts by businesses to own and control  it. That was halted since 2002 and salmon stocks have recovered for all to enjoy.

This salmon resource is our richest and most treasured as we have shown here in Bay St. George with people caring and helping to protect it.

For comparison in 2001, the year before DFO asked for help in our area, there were 1,028 small and 132 large for a total of 1,160 salmon with only 33 per cent conservation requirements met on Harry’s River.

A decade later, in 2011, we had 2,736 small and 1,288 large for a total of 4,024 and spawning levels the highest since we started.

This made for another historic achievement of having the highest spawning numbers over any other decade since DFO began keeping records on Harry’s River in 1953.

Sid Styles is chair of the Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group. He can be contacted at bsgssg@hotmail.com.

Organizations: Dear Editor, BSGSSG, Salmonid Advisory Committee Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation Salmonid Council Newfoundland-Labrador River Salmon Working Group

Geographic location: Gander, Fox Island, North America Codroy River

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