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Letter in Defence of ASF Role

THE TELEGRAM

Letter: You’re not from here — you don’t understand
The Telegram
Feb. 28, 2018

Having been a resident of the province and salmon fisher for 19 years, I am astounded that provincial Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne should attack representatives of the Atlantic Salmon Federation for being “pretty much out of touch with what’s happening in the pools and on the ground here in Newfoundland and Labrador” because it is “an organization based far away from here” (from his Feb. 19 letter in The Telegram, “ ASF is swimming against the tide”).

The minister’s attack came following his attendance at a meeting in Corner Brook organized by the Citizens Outdoors Rights Alliance (CORA) to promote the right to retention angling of salmon despite stocks falling below conservation requirements. The minister’s comments were supported by Jed Sampson, who suggested in his own letter that it was time the government showed this organization the door (“Come-from-away’s comments on wild salmon not welcome,” The Telegram, Feb. 24).

Perhaps it would be more appropriate for the minister and the supporters of CORA to recognize that ASF is an internationally respected, non-profit conservation organization that has an exemplary record in promoting the sustainable management of recreational salmon fisheries in Atlantic Canada and the United States. Among its many activities ASF has:

• Spent millions of dollars tracking salmon migratory patterns in an attempt to determine what factors are involved in increased at sea salmon mortality.
• Negotiated and funded agreements with Greenland fishermen to compensate them for not fishing for salmon. ASF is currently negotiating a new agreement.
• Conducted education programs in schools throughout Atlantic Canada, including Newfoundland and Labrador, emphasizing the value of the recreational salmon fishery, the cost of poaching and promoting responsible stewardship of the resource.
• Led a campaign to raise $25 million to purchase and remove major hydro dams restoring pathways for salmon to spawning grounds.

The minister’s attack is also surprising given the abysmal record of the current provincial Liberal government in respect of the inland recreational fishery. Since coming to office:

• The Provincial Inland Fish research Division has been eliminated.
• The excellent provincial Inland Fisheries Enforcement program has been wound back, resulting in drastic reduction in charges for violations of the recreational fishing regulations.
• The province has failed to attend any of the federal DFO’s Salmonid Advisory meetings, despite having two representatives on this committee.
• The province has attempted to prevent an environmental assessment of Grieg’s open net pen salmon aquaculture project despite overwhelming international evidence that such aquaculture projects negatively impact wild salmon populations.

The indifference of the provincial government to the health of the inland recreational fishery leaves Gerry Byrne in no position to deride the representatives of ASF. With members throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, ASF is fully aware of what is happening on the rivers throughout the province. It should come as no surprise to responsible anglers that ASF is supporting as a prudent course of action the continuation of the catch-and-release management strategy introduced by DFO in August 2017 following poor salmon returns to the rivers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is not ASF that is out of touch but individuals and organisations such as CORA that insist on a right to retain salmon irrespective of the impact on rapidly declining salmon populations.

Ken McLean
Eastport