NS First Nations and Sport Fisheries vs. DFO?
Nova Scotia’s First Nations and sport fishing groups are both extremely unhappy with Canada’s
Department of Fisheries & Oceans’ (DFO) Atlantic salmon management, and it’s become clear to everyone that
DFO won’t rectify this unless they are forced to.
Late last year, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs applied for a judicial review in federal court
because in most areas DFO has failed to ensure Atlantic salmon populations are healthy so that First Nations groups can have
an allotment. First Nations has achieved rights, but only on paper in this case, “paper salmon”. That review process
is ongoing, triggering a delay in the opening of the 2012 NS Atlantic salmon angling season.
Similarly, recreational anglers have asked DFO
for a salmon recovery plan for almost two decades, ever since DFO assessments indicated a decline in salmon stocks. Salmon
angling in most NS streams have been closed even to catch-and-release fishing for a number of years.
There’s still no plan.
The Margaree River is supported by a DFO hatchery
now operated by NS Inland Fisheries. That hatchery maintains the salmon population at levels more than adequate for both Margaree’s
aboriginal harvest and its sport fishery.
Unfortunately the St. Mary’s River and most other salmon producing streams in Nova Scotia have no such
hatchery support. DFO actually refuses to allow it, even though existing DFO facilities and resources could provide such support.
It’s a deplorable situation, a failure for DFO fulfilling its mandate, and a waste of public resources!
Let's consider a healthy
stream like the Margaree that can yield 2000 fish annually. If those fish are all harvested commercially they are worth about
2000 X 10 lbs X $5/lb = $100,000. But we know from a 2005 DFO economic survey report that the salmon sport fishery benefits
rural communities in Inverness County by $2,500,000 annually.
If the aboriginal and recreational anglers cooperate, a solution
might be squeezed out of DFO. Instead of shutting down the valuable sport fishery, I'd suggest that NS First Nations consider
the recreational fishery as a golden opportunity.
For example, DFO is no longer in the hatchery business, creating a great opportunity for First
Nations to get involved in sport fishery management. Stocking programs require extensive monitoring, another opportunity.
First Nations communities have education, health, fishing, youth and employment issues like everyone else. What
could be better for youth than hands-on work on our salmon streams?
First Nations people can achieve rights thru
our adversarial legal system, but if we work together we could both gain understanding, respect, trust, and friendship that
grow from an effective working relationship.
No court system can deliver that.
Furthermore, DFO may declare NS Southern Uplands salmon an endangered species and government
supported fish farming seriously threatens wild salmon and sea-trout populations. Canada's fish habitat protection regulation
is also on the chopping block.
summary, Nova Scotia’s sport fishery is threatened as never before.
Who is the enemy? Let's all be very clear that DFO is responsible for this,
and our displeasure should be directed toward DFO, not First Nations. Remember that First Nations didn’t cause this
problem and may be able to help resolve it.
On another issue, DFO has assigned much of its aquaculture responsibility to our NS government. This adds provincial
Minister Sterling Belliveau to my villain list, and First Nations has an interest in this issue as well.
Let’s face it, governments
listen to First Nations. I think sport fishers should treat this incident as a wake-up call and organize a unified and powerful
opposition to these government policies that includes First Nations.
It could be very interesting and productive if we got together on this.
Steve Saves a Snapper!
The photo shows Steve Clark of Melrose NS holding a 30+ lb snapping
turtle that wandered onto Church St. in Antigonish recently.
The turtle had drawn a crowd that were amazed at its snapping and hissing.
father David taught him how to safely grab and hold a snapper, by the shell where the rear legs protrude. This move is definitely
not recommended for inexperienced persons because the turtle has a very long reach, snaps lightning fast, and is very dangerous
when it feels threatened. They are quite common is eastern NS, avoid contact with people, and are not usually seen in public.
the big turtle to the nearby West River & released it unharmed, a happy ending to the story.