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New salmon licence strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador

Joan Saunders of the Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance joined Premier Dwight Ball and Fisheries and Land Resources Minister, Gerry Byrne (not shown) as the province rolled out its 2018 salmon strategy.
Joan Saunders of the Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance joined Premier Dwight Ball and Fisheries and Land Resources Minister, Gerry Byrne (not shown) as the province rolled out its 2018 salmon strategy. - Photo by Roxanne Ryland

The 2018 salmon strategy includes a drop in the resident salmon licence fees from $23 to $5, which is designed to compensate vendors in what is expected to be a low season angler wise on the rivers.

The province rolled out its plan in Deer Lake on Friday.

Salmon anglers saw their retention quota reduced to one fish for the season once the Department of Fisheries and Oceans brought down its late management plan, which drew the ire of anglers.

It was revealed that until the mid-season review in July, catch-and-release anglers will be allotted the opportunity to catch a total of 10 fish.

There are also plans to conduct study into catch-and-release and its impact on salmon mortality with focus on Newfoundland and Labrador.

Reaction from the players

The Western Star reached out to those at the centre of the salmon dispute over the past couple months.

Here's what they had to say.

Gary Gale, Chairperson Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance (CORA)

"We fully endorse the plan. Right from the start, basically our position has always been that if any salmon management plan is going to be successful and sustainable it has to be obviously fair and balanced for both groups of anglers and that’s what I’ve been told in terms of the announcement.

"What has changed that makes us happy is that on the hook-and-release side is limited to 10 fish until an in-season review.

"From my understanding in terms of the plan there will be announcement immediately after July 20 or even on July 20 with regards to additional fishing.

"Before, as you know, it was catch-and-release up to three fish per day for the season, and terms of the announcement by Byrne and Ball it would be a limit of 10 fish.

"The rationale for 10 fish hook-and-release is the mortality rate based on DFO science is 10 per cent. They get to kill one and we get to kill one so there’s the balance.

"Over the course of the last year I’ve looked at many different studies, quite a few done in different countries and one was done in Newfoundland. We’d like to see a more comprehensive study done. Many of these studies are done under ideal conditions.

"We’d like to see them done at different times of the year and I’ve pushed DFO on this.

"The positive thing is we get a better idea in terms of the actual mortality rate is as it relates to catch-and-release at different times of the year.

John McCarthy, President Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland (SPAWN)

"We question do they have the authority or the permission of Minister Leblanc to make these changes?

"We hope that they’re going to have a tracking system in place because at $5s a licence I hope there’s some kind of check valve in there for people buying multiple licenses.

"Unless there’s a tracking system in place for multiple licences I think $30 bucks would be a little bit of a deterrent.

"Two weeks ago Minister (Gerry) Byrne did an interview and he suggested that he didn’t have the time to make the changes and now here they are making changes a week before. So what’s changed in a week?

"They are going to do a study at $500,000 and we certainly hope that’s an independent study because it’s quite evident the minister is not objective in this because he’s basically come out and stated that he doesn’t see hook-and-release as a viable alternative.

"What’s interesting too is if you go on the government site and switch to the Department of Tourism and (minister Christopher) Mitchelmore, they’re actually paying money to promote hook-and-release.

"The reduction in the numbers of fish you can hook-and-release is going to have a major effect and cancellations on our outfitting business I can guarantee you. That was directed directly towards outfitters.

"We’ve already got reports back of cancellations and now we know a lot of these people are from outside the province, but they all employ Newfoundlanders as guides, cooks and support staff.

"All the science released to us was also on DFO’s website and there’s only one group that complained about this science and that’s the man who said he made his decision on science — Gerry Byrne."

Gerry Byrne, Fisheries and Land Resources Minister

"DFO had provided us with information that there was a strong potential, based on past analysis of angler behaviour, that the number of licences could be significantly reduced and therefore the number of anglers on the river could be significantly reduced and this led us to the conclusion, based on consultation and input from anglers, that it’s absolutely essential to have anglers on the river for social enforcement.

"It has been long said that if anglers aren’t present on the rivers there could be significant consequence to enforcement and to illegal activity occurring.

"By having more fishermen on the river we provide for a better conservation result and everyone in the angling community agrees with this because they promote it.

"The second thing we announced is changes to the wildlife regulations that will provide the Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources with the authority to make changes to possession limits. Those same authorities come from the constitutional authorities granted under Section 92 of the Constitution Act, the same authorities which provide me with the jurisdiction over the licensing, and also provides me with jurisdiction over certain possession limits.

"We cannot increase possession limits. DFO has authority under Section 91 of the constitution for the management of inland and seacoast fisheries.

"We cannot circumvent or add to DFO’s targets, but we certainly can use that authority to provide limitations to possession limits.

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