New Brunswick

Salmon, wildlife groups accept continued ban on keeping catch

The one-year continuation of a ban on keeping salmon caught in Maritime rivers is being met with acceptance by the presidents of the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation and the Miramichi Salmon Association.

Mandatory hook-and-release policy remains in place for 2016 after salmon returns fail to hit targets

Hook-and-release will be mandatory for all salmon anglers in the Maritimes once again in 2016. (CBC)

The one–year continuation of a ban on keeping salmon caught in Maritime rivers is being met with acceptance by the presidents of the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation and the Miramichi Salmon Association.

Charles Leblanc had been advocating for the mandatory hook–and–release policy to be eased on stretches of some rivers.

Charles LeBlanc, president of the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, says the situation with the salmon is moving in the right direction. (Canadian Wildlife Federation)
However, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo announced Wednesday that measures imposed in 2015 will continue for the 2016 season. Tootoo cited scientific analysis showing the lowest Atlantic salmon returns on record for many rivers in the Maritime region over the last five years.

"We all want a healthy salmon population," said Leblanc, adding that some of his members will be disappointed.  

"It's good for the fish. Hopefully, we will work toward a balance and harvest by abundance.

"It's going in the right direction. If we need another year, that's fine. We just keep on," he said.

Statistics from Fisheries and Oceans for 2015 show improved salmon returns to the Miramichi, but not in sufficient numbers to meet conservation targets:

  • The Southwest Miramichi met 92 per cent of its conservation target with 11,490 large salmon returning and 13,980 grilse.
  • The Northwest Miramichi met 82 per cent of its conservation target with 4,171 large salmon and 11,980 grilse.

Miramichi Salmon Association president Mark Hambrook said given the 2015 statistics, DFO's only choice was to continue with the mandatory hook–and–release policy.

"I think they did the only wise thing," said Hambrook.

Mark Hambrook is the president of the Miramichi Salmon Association and he says the salmon fishery plays an important role in the local economy. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
"Seeing that we didn't meet conservation levels, it would be very difficult to issue tags at this point."

The salmon association is ultimately hoping a river–by–river management system will be established, through which the waters are opened or closed to fishing based on the salmon numbers in that river.

Hambrook would like to see a mid–season review that could allow for salmon tags to be issued on rivers showing sufficient salmon returns.

"I understand they want to go back cautiously," said Hambrook. "But by next year, hopefully, they'll have it worked out so that they can monitor, and if there is a strong run of fish coming in in July … they say, 'Yes, we're going to have a surplus this year, now we'll issue some tags.'"

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