N.B. salmon poaching a 'big problem': DFO

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says salmon poaching in New Brunswick rivers is a big problem.

Salmon poaching in New Brunswick rivers is a big problem that has been worse than usual this summer, the federal Fisheries Department says.

Darin Manderville, a conservation protection supervisor for Fredericton and Woodstock, N.B., said he's seen a lot of poaching on the St. John River this year, including two people his department apprehended last week.

Hot weather, which makes salmon easier to catch, and strong salmon numbers have led to more illegal fishing, Manderville said.

For instance, the Nashwaak River has more than 700 salmon, almost double last year's count, he said. "When you've got a criminal element that's organized and that targets salmon where they congregate in cold-water pools either by netting or by angling, it's a big problem," he said.

Poachers face fines of up to $100,000 and can have their vehicle seized, but Manderville said organized groups still continually net the fish.

Conservation officers conduct covert stakeouts, but being in the right place at the right time is difficult, Manderville said.

"Hopefully, we'll get lucky and pick up some people that are in violation," he said.

A dozen of the Miramichi River's colder pools have been closed to anglers for portions of this summer because warm weather lessens oxygen in the water, forcing struggling salmon to congregate in the cooler pools. Conservationists have warned that when this happens, poachers are attracted to the visible and vulnerable fish.

Salmon is a major tourism draw for the province, and the bag limit when the fishery is open is two fish a day. In many instances catch and release is all that's allowed.

Manderville said the public should call the Department of Fisheries and Oceans if they see or suspect someone is poaching.

Angler Joseph Doiron said the poachers affect more than just the salmon.

"It's gonna end up shutting down some pools," he said. "Some property owners and people with land rights and water rights are going to end up getting ugly and shutting off the water."