This river only exists as a salmon river today because of the tireless efforts of a small, dedicated group of salmon anglers who fought tooth and nail against the small hydro proposal for this river some 20 years ago.
At that time we received absolutely no support from Parks Canada, DFO or the local anglers for our stand. In spite of that, and largely because of a very spirited public advertising campaign, we were successful in convincing the Brian Tobin government of the day to put in place a moratorium on small hydro projects on our salmon rivers.
Many salmon rivers were saved, including North West River. Isn’t it rather ironic that today Parks Canada’s heavy-handed, anti-conservation management measures are causing problems with the salmon on that river?
Now don’t get me wrong — I am not against Parks Canada bringing in special regulations for the river. I wish more rivers were managed on an individual basis (like they should be, and like they are in most other places). But when Parks Canada — which doesn’t own the river, by the way, and have discontinued the counting fence to help manage the river — brings in regulations that are clearly anti-conservation, then its time for the local anglers to stand and fight.
Good for them. It is only this kind of public pressure that will sway these government bureaucrats.
In particular, the following Parks Canada regulations for that river need to be changed:
1. Allow anglers to use barbless hooks. The forced use of barbed hooks only is long outdated. Salmon parr and large salmon still have to be released on that river. This alone is enough for the use of barbless hooks.
2. Allow anglers to release salmon. By forcing retention only, Parks Canada is responsible for the only river in this province where anglers cannot practice conservation. Why does everything have to be killed? What about anglers who just enjoy fishing for its own sake? Parks Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation have their heads in the sand when it comes to hook and release.
Just look what’s happened on Flowers River where all salmon have to be released. There are now many more salmon and much bigger salmon. Maybe Parks Canada and the Wildlife Federation can tell us how many dead salmon spawn successfully.
3. Open up the entire river to angling. By keeping all of the river above the National Park completely closed to all angling (that’s about 95 per cent of the river), Parks Canada and DFO are creating a poachers paradise. Unfortunately, in Newfoundland and Labrador a closed river is poached river. Look no further than the Bay St. George rivers if you want proof.
Having a few anglers on the river — yes, heaven forbid, even hook and release anglers, will deter poaching.
So Parks Canada, if you can’t get with the times when it comes to progressive salmon management, please turn the management of our river over to someone who can.