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Anglers may face new rules after low salmon returns

The federal government is considering new rules for Atlantic salmon anglers following troubling fish numbers on the Miramichi and Restigouche rivers last year.

Salmon returns reached historically low numbers last year in the Miramichi and Restigouche rivers

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is considering new rules for Atlantic salmon anglers following low fish numbers on the Miramichi and Restigouche rivers last year. (Submitted by Mat Trevors)

The federal government is considering new rules for Atlantic salmon anglers following troubling fish numbers on the Miramichi and Restigouche rivers last year.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada wrapped up an online survey on Friday as part of its effort to get input on the future of salmon fishing.

It is estimated that 12,000 salmon returned to the Miramichi River in 2014, which is an historic low.

Geoff Giffin, the director of New Brunswick programs with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said 2,400 fish returned on the river’s northwest branch.

"That's getting down to numbers never seen before on that watershed,” Giffin said.

Steps were taken in 2014 to help protect the fish stocks. The number of salmon tags attached to a New Brunswick licence was cut in half to four in 2014.

The federal government’s online survey has been asking if additional measures are necessary to help boost the salmon numbers in the province's rivers.

Mark Hambrook, the president of the Miramichi Salmon Association, said he believes action needs to be taken immediately to help the salmon numbers.

"What we think is that there should be at least a one year moratorium on killing any salmon,” he said.

Hambrook said he prefers a one-year moratorium on fishing over changes to regulations on anglers.

"A lot of people feel if we went down from four tags to two tags or one tag, once it gets down there you never get it back,” he said.

A spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada says rules for the 2015 season will be ready by early spring.

The online survey isn’t the only federal initiative that is being undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in order to help salmon conservation in the region.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation’s Giffin said he is encouraged by a new federal advisory committee on Atlantic salmon created late last year. The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for February.

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