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Salmon preservation group sees latest DFO fishway counts as startling

['WS-xx-letter to the editor']
['WS-xx-letter to the editor']

The Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland (SPAWN) works for the protection of salmon stocks and continued equal access to all NL waters by all anglers.

Some of our members are strictly catch and release anglers, some strictly retention anglers, most practice both. If an angler releases smaller grilse to save their retention tag for a larger fish, they are either a release angler or a hypocrite. We respect the individual angler’s option to practice retention or ethical catch and release.  We do not promote catch and release only fishing, we promote sustainable retention fishing, and we’d love to see six fish quotas on all systems, but only if salmon stocks can support it.

We have, over the past two decades operated counting fences, cleared river systems, lobbied government and industry etc. to help these salmon stocks. We respect the choice of Newfoundlanders to retain salmon, but not at the expense of depriving this privilege from our future generations of anglers.

The 2017 salmon run has all NL anglers disappointed and frustrated. SPAWN saw the potential of this at meetings with DFO this past spring. Their science department showed 30 per cent decreases in more than half of the index rivers (available counting fences), from 2015 to 2016. We recommended some changes then to no avail.

They decided upon a 2017 mid-season review to address potential poor stocks and, to our knowledge, that's where this closure came from. There were some earlier closures to some systems that were due to a warm water protocol, which still exists. Some NL Index river fishway counts show startling decreases in 2017. These numbers are alarming and because of them we support the closure.

Why are the stocks down?

Salmon are a difficult species to completely understand; they spawn in fresh water but then migrate into a vast marine ecosystem. There are so many factors that can affect their number ; Capelin and shrimp stocks, water quality and temperature, erosion, global warming, overfishing, poaching and on and on. We see it as probably a combination of many of these factors.

There are no simple solutions and we must be cautious of individual’s personal agendas and actions.  Catch and release done properly does still have a mortality loss. I have studied it for quite a while and believe it to be between 2 to 5 per cent, I have guided for 35 years - I fish and canoe; I have seen dead salmon on rivers but not to the extent that naysayers claim, to rationalize their own agenda. We don't see lobbying for larger retention quotas as the answer to two years of alarmingly low salmon returns.

Should all angling be closed? Absolutely.

Will catch and relase angling result in salmon loss? Absolutely.

Does a warm water protocol still exist? Absolutely. Will poaching increase with reduced angler presence on the rivers? Absolutely.

Will catch and release anglers catch fish in warm water? Not likely.

Will catch and release anglers make potential poachers uncomfortable? Absolutely.

We feel that the potential loss to catch and release angling will be minimal compared to the potential loss to illegal nets in the river.

We wish there was an easy and simple cause. We are a science based organization and we realize that the true cause is much more complex and that mitigating measures taken by DFO are likely to be more political than scientific but we continue to work to maintain salmon stocks so all NL anglers can retain a fish next year and watch their children have that same pleasure in the future. By the way, we have been lobbying for ten years now for better catch and release regulations for NL. We see the abuse and the need for better rules. We will continue our work in this direction.

In your criticism of SPAWN, ask yourself what you have done to positively affect salmon stocks. We wish you tight lines into the future!

John McCarthy - President

For the SPAWN Board of directors

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