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Letter: DFO ignoring public interests on salmon

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

It should be known to the general public and all salmon anglers in the province that DFO is holding meetings today and Feb. 28th in St. John’s regarding salmon stocks and salmon rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This meeting, however, will no longer include any representatives from the public interest point of view. It has become clear that DFO does not want the voice of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians heard at these meetings. Our voices no longer matter to DFO, and lobby groups will now decide our Atlantic salmons’ future instead of our people.

The proud salmon anglers of the province apparently no longer have any value or merit in the eyes of DFO. It would seem that the owners of this resource, the people of this province, can no longer input and help protect and manage our salmon resources. This is an absolute insult to the people of this province. DFO should be ashamed for deciding to hold these meetings behind closed doors without any input representing the public interest; only wealthy lobby groups are left to determine the fate of our wild Atlantic salmon.

In the past there have been several DFO ministers who have told outdoor conservation organizations in the province that the salmon here belong to the people; that DFO is only the caretaker of this public resource.

A meeting was held by the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation with 20 other organizations in attendance, such as the Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance (CORA), and also staff from former MP cabinet minister Judy Foote’s office. The overwhelming consensus was to inform the prime minister and DFO minister that hook and release should not be allowed unless retention angling was permitted as well. It was abundantly clear that if certain rivers in the province were deemed at risk or threatened, then these rivers should be closed to all angling to ensure no human induced mortality was done, both retention and hook and release.

How can this resource belong to the people of N.L. when wealthy lobby groups are now the only people invited to these meetings? It appears that powerful influential groups from outside of this province want to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are no longer a potential threat to their plans. This might very well signal the end of retention angling for Atlantic salmon in the province.

Our public interest organizations have been attending all salmon-related DFO meetings for over 30 years, and this was at the invite of DFO and the previous ministers. It seems now the public no longer matters, with DFO simply discarding us and keeping lobby groups instead. Why on earth would DFO not want local public interest conservation groups in the province at these meetings?

Does this current meeting have a hidden agenda? The only agenda which public interest groups here in the province believe in at the highest level is the implementation of a hook-and-release-only policy for all rivers in N.L.

A reminder to the salmon anglers should be the article in Forbes Magazine by Monty Burke with the president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation in New Brunswick a few years ago. In this article, president Bill Taylor declares that “no one should keep and kill an Atlantic salmon anymore” — only hook and release. The only people who should be deciding the fate of our resources should be the people of this province, not outsiders pressuring the government to push their agendas.

DFO has now silenced the voices of our province. If they allow people to kill our salmon by hook and release only (which has quite the mortality rate, 10 to 25 per cent), while retention anglers are barred from our rivers, say goodbye to your resource. It looks like private interest comes first, and public interest comes last.

If our wild Atlantic salmon stocks are in such peril, then all conservation organizations should immediately demand that all salmon fishing stop until the stocks recover. Make no mistake, this is your resource and you have the right to fight to ensure it will be here for future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Yours in conservation.

Andrew Bouzan, president
Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation

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