To Fish, or Not to Fish?
Last year we worried about the loss of the salmon fishing season on the Nova Scotia’s St. Mary’s
River and other Guysborough County streams. Unfortunately, it happened.
year we’re worried that the rivers may be closed completely due to a closed trout fishery as well. The issue still has
not been decided, so there’s still hope. Hope for the wonderful way of life we enjoy here. Our young people appreciate
that and our social and economic values are worth fighting for. So let’s do it!
What’s at issue?
Is by-catch a problem that dictates
closure of trout fishing? That’s the issue.
In 2010 some anglers were observed
using a General Fishing License to (allegedly) target Atlantic salmon when the salmon season was closed, although no one was
charged on the St. Mary’s. In 2010 there was no open salmon season, despite a salmon population that we’ve seen
rebound over the past five years. Regulations require that all Atlantic salmon be released alive, and the severe penalty for
non-compliance is an effective deterrent. So, whether or not there is an open salmon season, live-release is required, so
the issue is NOT conservation. In fact, since angler presence is known to be a poaching deterrent, closure can actually harm
Other harmful effects of closure to the sport fishery
include lack of angler information and the subsequent loss of public interest and support suffered by our volunteer organizations
that work to develop and sustain fishing.
Who are the government agencies involved
in the issue?
Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s,
DFO, our federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans,
NS Inland Fisheries, and
DNR, our NS Department of Natural Resources.
else is involved?
ESA, the Eastern Sportfish Association,
Mulgrave and Area Lakes Enhancement Association,
SMRA, the St. Mary’s River
NSSA, the Nova Scotia Salmon Association.
did this issue arise?
Halifax based NSSA representatives Carl Purcell and Larry
Short told DFO and NS Inland Fisheries that they want this “dirty fishery” cleaned up. Whether they speak on behalf
of their membership or because of personal issues is open to speculation. They have singled out the St. Mary’s and LaHave
Rivers, which local organizations on both rivers see as interference in dealing with local issues. They also seem to acknowledge
that closure may actually result in harm to salmon populations. Local residents such as me, Sandy Barnhill and John Cameron
Sr. were all directors of NSSA. Sandy Barnhill’s father, Gordon Barnhill, was a founding director of NSSA. We are appalled
by this uncharacteristic action by an organization we’ve long supported and respected.
Then there’s DFO. It is important to remember that DFO has the responsibility for managing Atlantic
salmon in Canada. DFO policy, including their divestiture of federal salmon hatcheries in 1995, got us where we are today.
In addition, I suspect that DFO may be playing us all so that the blame for controversial regulatory changes gets attributed
to others. I’ve seen that strategy work for DFO before, so let’s not fall for that one!
Furthermore, DFO’s population estimates over the past five years are much lower than angler observations
suggest. After all, if there were so few salmon in the St. Mary’s, why would anglers want to fish them?
DFO biologists admit that their assessment methods have a theoretical variance of 100%, but
even that isn’t enough to account for the steady recovery of salmon populations that anglers have seen. DFO reports
no appreciable increase during the last five years, yet angling observation tells us the opposite. The increase has also been
seen in New Brunswick streams and elsewhere, so it raises another question:
DFO deliberately understating population estimates? A possible motive might be to avoid dealing with a Native fishery. Another
might be to advance aquaculture development. Another might be to influence COSEWIC action. Who knows? But we anglers know
what smells fishy!
to any form of trout or salmon fishery closure are ESA and the Mulgrave Association. They support ESA’s mission, “to
develop and sustain the recreational sport fishery and provide economic and social benefit to residents of the region”.
They also feel that closure is unfair to trout anglers that have joined a growing and lucrative sea-trout fishery.
As I write this the St. Mary’s River Association is still sitting on the fence, favoring an open
salmon season, as do all of the angling groups involved, including NSSA. But, if that isn’t possible, SMRA favours closure
of some pools. SMRA directors must decide whether their personal issues are supported by their members, the community, and
are in the best long-term interest of the river and their Association. They, and everyone else, will have to live with the
result of their decision.
Our provincial government agencies DO support open fisheries that attract visitors to Nova Scotia and benefit
our people, and they are responsible for trout management. But ultimately the province and DFO must together determine the
That’s why all concerned should attend the public
DFO ZMAC (Zone Management Advisory Committee) meeting coming up this Friday. Tell DFO what you think!
When: Friday, May 20, 2011 at 10:30 AM.
Where: The St. Mary’s River
Association’s Interpretive Centre in Sherbrooke
Please send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please stay on the line