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Letter: Stop blaming retention anglers — blame mismanagement

Atlantic salmon swim in a pen, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, in Eastport, Maine, where the 2008 harvest is likely to total more than 20 million pounds. An international conservation organization is warning that large Atlantic salmon could suffer the same devastating collapse as the cod stocks off Newfoundland unless Canada steps up protection efforts and sets a good example for other nations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP PhotoRobert F. Bukaty and Jason Leighton
Atlantic salmon. — CP file photo

According to recent letters in the paper by Keith Sullivan (FFAW) and Cyr Couturier (aquaculture industry), these supposedly learned gentlemen claim to have found the reason for the salmon and even the cod decline. According to them, it is the retention fishers!

What utter nonsense.

Couturier ignores the review done by the International Council for the Exploration of The Seas. Twenty-five top scientists reviewed over 150 studies done on the impact of open-net aquaculture on wild salmon. The conclusion: aquaculture kills wild salmon stocks, not retention anglers. DFO also found that there was genetic pollution from aquaculture escapes in numerous rivers in the province.

Why do these people insist on blaming the retention anglers? The industry and DFO use smoke and mirrors tactics to muddy the waters. But they can’t fool everybody.

To add insult to injury, the FFAW has also implied that the recreational anglers are to blame for the cod declines. Really? That is stretching it a bit too far, even for the FFAW.

FFAW ignores the plight of the lowly caplin, food source for countless fish species. Caplin stocks have not improved since 1990. As caplin come ashore, the seiners rush in to sweep them up. They also ignore the other predators, like seals, etc.  What next? Will FFAW ask for a catch and release quota of caplin for recreational anglers?

FFAW conveniently ignores the study commissioned by government and done by John Saxton in March 2015 on cod marketing, in which he concludes that only 0.1 per cent of one per cent are caught by the lowly recreational anglers. Ryan Cleary of FISH-NL was kind enough to give me a copy of that report.

Yet FFAW and DFO are spending tremendous effort and time on attacking recreational anglers who are only 0.1 per cent of one per cent, and completely ignoring the other 99.9 per cent. Why?

At least the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of N.L. put the blame in the right place — and I agree “epic mismanagement.” FISH-NL has also put the blame in the right place: mismanagement. The culprit? DFO, which appears to ignore all the evidence before them. When DFO Minister Romeo LeBlanc was asked about the caplin decline and their small size, he said “although they were small, they would die anyway, so it was better to catch them.” Did he fail to pass Basic Fisheries Management 100?

That jewel of a statement ranks right up there with Sullivan of FFAW and Couturier of aquaculture, both blaming recreational anglers.

Cleary of FISH-NL seems to have found the solution to the mess, mismanagement. Make no mistake, Cleary and I are not bosom buddies, but he appears to be that rare ray of light when it comes to the fisheries.

I leave you with one final question: did DFO allocate fish quotas to landlocked countries like Hungary, Serbia, Albania, etc. — not to forget St-Pierre-Miquelon, which extracts large amounts of salmon in the 10 mile by 200 mile zone? All this happening and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are treated like criminals because we want to partake in a food fishery. Yes, that almost invisible 0.1 per cent of one per cent. 

Politicians, you’d better wake up and start taking the voting citizens (recreational anglers) seriously, or you will be looking for a job. Possibly as a fisheries consultant, as you all seem to have the answers to all the public’s concerns.

Rick Bouzan
St. John’s

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