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Letter: Catch and release: inflicting pain for pleasure and money

Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon - Submitted

Do salmon feel pain? There is mounting evidence by leading scientific institutes that salmon do feel pain. They have pain receptors that kick in when hooked, immediately jump, run and frantically fight for their lives.

If salmon do feel pain, what does the catch-and-release angler do about that knowledge?

Pulitzer prize winning author John McPhee notes, “Catch-and-release fishing may be cruelty masquerading as political correctness. Never say ‘playing a fish.’ You are at best torturing and at worst killing a creature you may or may not eat.  Playing on one end, dying on the other — if playing is what it is, it is sadism. It is a game of dominance followed by cathartic pardons, which is one of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship.”

He further states “The idea of playing with things for your own enjoyment while they go through great anguish and suffering is fundamentally wrong.”

Related letter:

Letter: Catch and release of Atlantic salmon in Canada

Imagine baiting a fishhook with Milk Bones to catch Fido and hauling him around on 60 feet of line while he tries to get away. No one would tolerate that, but catch-and-release fishermen will for salmon because they are under water — out of sight. Why?

They do it for the pleasure of making a salmon fight frantically in a desperate bid to get free. They do it for fun and not for food.

Catch-and-release fishing is more cruel than hunting. Hunters don’t torment their prey or force it to engage in a frenzied combat. They aim to kill the animal, as quickly and painlessly as possible. How many salmon fishermen want a quick kill with no excitement? 

They do it for the money.

They inflict pain on salmon so they can raise money for their lobby groups, build more remote lodges, and sell more magazines.

They inflict pain on salmon to attract more tourists and stroke their egos.

Who is promoting catch and release salmon fishing?

The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) a rich, U.S based lobby group, its affiliates, donors and DFO.

ASF believes that “No one should ever kill an Atlantic salmon again.”

Check the donor list in ASF’s 2016 Annual Report online: some local businesses, lodges and donors — including Dominic LeBlanc MP, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans — might surprise you.

ASF President Bill Taylor is also a close friend of Dominic LeBlanc.

Fisheries and Oceans are also listed in ASF’s 2016 Annual Report as one of “our faithful supporters who have made contributions over this past year.”

DFO Science rarely has a local meeting without ASF staff and affiliates attending, and advising them. DFO appears a mouthpiece for ASF.

Should we assume they believe in catch and release fishing only?

Is this not a major conflict of interest?  Should we investigate?

Should we boycott all businesses that support ASF’s brainwashing efforts?

Should we choose to spend our $138 million on recreational fishing next year elsewhere?

Is ASF planning to privatize all rivers in Newfoundland?

U.S. fishing pundit, Lee Wulff, spent time in Newfoundland from 1946-54 promoting catch and release, and privatization of our rivers. We can thank the government of the day for having the backbone to quash such attempts.

Is anyone seriously considering these ethical questions?

Yes, governments in Germany and Switzerland have debated these questions of humane treatment of all animals and banned catch-and-release salmon fishing.

In Germany it is an offence to injure salmon for no good reason and sport fishing is no good reason. It is considered as cruelty to animals and not permitted.  Penalties include up to two years in prison.

Newfoundlanders who practice catch-and-release salmon fishing should reflect on these questions, too.  With over 37,000 salmon caught and released in 2016, think about the harm and disrespect inflicted on those salmon.

It’s time to realize, as other countries do, that catch and release is cruel and unusual punishment for our salmon. It does result in mortality.

Are these the ethics we want to leave as a legacy to our grandchildren?

We must resist with all our might the imposition of this philosophy.

Robert Sheppard

Logy Bay

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