I just finished watching a video on the techniques of live release of Atlantic salmon, sponsored by the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), using money supplied by the government of Canada (re-investing in wildlife initiatives). In the video production, the participants (male and female) go through the techniques of live release, and in the video, the salmon swim away.
I have no problem with the techniques presented, but the video goes on to extrapolate that those released salmon go on to spawn. There is no study that I have read that indicates that salmon - once caught - go on to spawn, nor is there any documentation that if the salmon do spawn, that the eggs hatch. This video was shot on a river in Northern Quebec. No mention is made of water temperature or if the salmon were caught close to the mouth of the river or not. Temperature and closeness to the mouth of the river is paramount to salmon survival. Those salmon that were released were not followed and were not tagged to allow followup.
I have read many studies on Atlantic salmon and temperature is a key component of salmon survival, yet this component was not mentioned. Further to that, the salmon in question on the video were large salmon (greater than 63 centimetres). My experience tells me that a salmon that large will be on the hook for 20-25 minutes. While I do applaud the video for demonstrating the techniques of live release, there is no followup to see if those salmon spawned or survived.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have advocated for a hook-and-release licence only, as in Quebec, but have been met with undisputed resistance by the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland and other ASF affiliated groups in the province. Subsequently we have not got the ability to purchase a hook-and-release licence, as is the case in Quebec.
I already stated that the video is fine in teaching the technique of live release, but the majority of anglers in Newfoundland and Labrador catch salmon to eat, and we at the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation have always advocated that if you catch a fish, you eat the fish. It is not something we take lightly; you have a responsibility. We have four tags per licence, or six in some cases, on three rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador.
If that fish decides to take your fly, it then becomes your responsibility; it is done for food and not for pleasure. I repeat: the motivation is food and not pleasure. If an animal gives itself to you, it becomes a part of you and it is not for pleasure; it is your responsibility.
There is also mounting evidence that suggests that salmon swim away after being hooked and released but their energy is very much depleted and they die after being released, within 24-48 hours after the release occurs.
If you wish to view this go to www.nlwf.ca and view the documentation.
You may not see a large percentage of salmon carcasses, because they go in the river bank and die and then their carcasses become food for eagles, gulls, mink, etc. - but you see the message I am sending. There are many who will disagree with me, but that is my viewpoint and the belief of many who angle salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador, but not all.
Ward Samson is past president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation.