By Bill Taylor
The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is one of Canada’s oldest and most influential conservation organizations. We were established in 1948 to protect and restore wild salmon and the habitat they need to survive. After reading two negative opinion letters in The Telegram in as many weeks, we’d like to take the opportunity to clarify what we do as a charitable organization and our approach to ensuring the future of wild Atlantic salmon for all generations.
As an organization, ASF is concerned with one thing: restoring our wild Atlantic salmon runs. Since 100 per cent of our revenue is generated through the generosity of our members, our existence depends on the support of individuals who believe in our mandate; without the public’s support, we would cease to exist.
We attract members from 26 different countries, although more than half of our members are Canadian. Since the issues affecting salmon differ across each province, we have five regional program directors and five supporting regional councils across eastern Canada.
We also draw support from over 120 local affiliates, which include river associations, First Nations’ conservation organizations and community groups.
To be sure, we are not a government organization. However, we do work collaboratively with government and non-government organizations at municipal, provincial and federal levels to fulfil our salmon conservation mandate.
We are not a political group; in fact, to maintain our charitable status we are prohibited by law to direct no more than 10 per cent of our resources towards acceptable (non-partisan) political activity.
We are not in cahoots with the salmon outfitting industry to privatize your rivers.
However, we do certainly believe that anglers, the outfitting industry and the jobs that they provide are vital to rural economies wherever salmon are found, and that angling is an important part of our heritage.
Since salmon and salmon fishing is such an important part of our culture and who we are, we want to ensure that wild salmon persist for future generations.
One way anglers can do that is to practice live-release fishing.
Live-release fishing is an effective conservation and management tool for Atlantic salmon.
This statement is supported by DFO, and it’s supported by science.
There are multiple peer-reviewed published studies, including studies from Newfoundland and Labrador, suggesting that the survival of angled salmon is typically around 90 per cent (see study on Conne River by Dempson, 2002).
Under good conditions, and when proper release techniques are practiced, survival can be virtually 100 per cent.
In addition, the survival rate of eggs from angledsalmon is not significantly different than eggs from non-angled salmon (see study by Booth and others, 1995).
Since the survival of angled salmon after being released depends on proper release techniques, ASF helped to develop a new live release video this year that is available on our website (http://asf.ca/live-release.html).
Education is a big part of what we do. We actively collect information about salmon from different sources around the world and we provide it to the public so that they can stay informed.
We believe that keeping the public informed about issues affecting salmon is integral to the persistence of salmon in our rivers.
Another way that we believe the public can help conserve salmon is to get out and fish. Anglers are stewards for Atlantic salmon on our rivers.
This season alone, anglers in N.L. have identified and reported salmon poachers on several rivers, discovered and reported escaped farmed salmon in the Garnish River and lobbied the N.L. government
to re-hire provincial conservation enforcement officers.
Because anglers are instrumental to the well-being of wild Atlantic salmon, we want to see them — and more of them — on rivers across N.L. and wherever salmon are found.
This means ensuring public access to rivers for angling. This means hosting workshops to teach kids how to angle and tie flies.
This means supporting local outfitters, guides, conservation officers and the people whose livelihoods depend on recreational fishing. And, in our opinion, this means ensuring that there are enough salmon in the rivers for everyone to fish, by releasing what we catch.
Recreational anglers in Canada currently harvest more wild Atlantic salmon than First Nations and Greenland fishermen.
We can’t expect them to reduce their catches unless we anglers are willing to do so ourselves.
I’m not sure how or why Jed Samson (Letter to the Editor, July 11) translated a statement that I made about catch-and-release fishing into ASF’s intention to support the “privatization of N.L. rivers for the outfitting industry and their rich clients.”
There is nothing about catch-and-release fishing that implies the privatization of salmon rivers.
Keep fishing. And to help ensure that our children and children’s children can experience the excitement and joy of hooking and landing a wild Atlantic salmon, release your fish back into the river.
The well-known salmon angler, innovator, author, filmmaker and conservationist Lee Wulff, who did so much for the sport of fly fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador, said it best: “… the salmon we release is our gift to another angler.”
Bill Taylor is the president and CEO
of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
He writes from St. Andrew’s, N.B.