Kevin McKay believes that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans already has its decision made on this year’s salmon angling plan, and it’s not going to be good for retention anglers like himself.
Following a mid-season review last year, DFO closed the salmon fishery to retention angling and there is a fear among anglers that the plan for this year will see a complete ban on retention fishing in favour of a catch and release only fishery.
“I’m concerned because I think that this is something that they’re taking from us,” said McKay, who was among a group of over 75 people who attended an emergency meeting of the Citizens’ Outdoor Rights Alliance (CORA) at the Deer Lake Motel in Deer Lake on Thursday night.
The group called the meeting in response to being denied a seat at the table during this week’s DFO Science meeting on Atlantic salmon. Provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne, who was also denied attendance at the meeting, spoke at Thursday night’s meeting.
In contrast to a meeting held in Corner Brook on Feb. 13, those who attended Thursday’s meeting were primarily retention anglers.
Wayne Fitzpatrick of NL Catch and Release attended with the intention of live streaming the meeting through Facebook but was told he could not.
“The purpose of DFO, I believe, is that they want to have hook and release mainly for the purpose of outfitters,” said McKay.
The Deer Lake man has been fishing for 42 years and feels it is a God-given right.
“As far as I’m concerned it belongs to us, it’s a part of our heritage.
“I want to fish, that’s why I’m here.”
McKay said there is a feeling that anglers should ignore what DFO says and just go fishing, but they have to abide by the law.
“We don’t need the DFO or anyone else to make poachers out of us.”
He said anglers need to be heard and he felt the meeting was a good start with Byrne and CORA on their side.
“We’ve got a chance to be heard and we need to be heard. If we don’t speak up, once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Just minutes before, Byrne got a loud round of applause when he asked if those gathered wanted him to exercise his vocal chords and to speak loud and clear on behalf of anglers.
Byrne said he has written his federal counterpart Dominic LeBlanc, calling for a retention fishery.
He said the salmon plan has to be led by science and, where there is not solid science to support the actions, then he’ll demand better science.
With the start of the salmon season just 90 days away, Byrne said his department, which takes care of the sale of salmon licences, has ordered licence packages from DFO that contain six tags.
While he doesn’t know what the end result will be, Byrne said he will be ready for a retention fishery in 2018.