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Letter: Hook-and-release only is definitely not the answer

A 1948 photo of Sid Styles in his father's arms, holding a salmon rod, at the age of three.
A 1948 photo of Sid Styles in his father's arms, holding a salmon rod, at the age of three. - Submitted

In response to the Feb. 20th letter to the editor titled “DFO minister must halt killing wild Atlantic salmon,” I would like to remind Don Hustins, past-president of the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland, the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a director of the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), of the damage that resulted from hook-and-release only restrictions placed on Bay St. George salmon rivers from 1997 to 2001. At that time, DFO had considered listing the fragile stocks as an endangered species and they asked for the help of local anglers.

Over 90 per cent of anglers in our province are retention anglers, so the hook-and-release only restrictions got rid of local anglers. This was beneficial to the business groups who were catering to the few and elite anglers. They had the rivers to themselves. Those restrictions also helped the people netting the rivers, with hundreds of pools and miles of river left wide open to the small presence of elite anglers.

After retention angling was brought back, DFO data collected on Harry’s River proved that local anglers are necessary. We volunteers worked with DFO under the umbrella group called Harry’s River Salmon Working Group, and our grassroots efforts yielded positive results. One of Don’s own directors saw our success, as ASF member Rick Maddigan’s letter in The Telegram on June 21, 2017 supported retention anglers, stating that the federation ignores the real problem. This comment from Rick’s letter was highlighted: “In Newfoundland and Labrador, the retention anglers are the true stewards of our rivers and our salmon.”

Scientists recently met to decide on the direction of recreational salmon fishing, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the results of hook-and-release only. They cannot expect over 90 per cent of anglers to sit and watch clients of outfitters fish the rivers they grew up on, just playing with the life of the salmon for pleasure and photo-ops. The tragedy of 1997 to 2001 is about to unfold again. DFO must know that the trust and loyalty of local anglers, the stewards, is on the line.

The public must realize that if a river or rivers are in such a threatened state, if conservation is such a concern, then any true conservationist would do as science always stated and have no human-induced mortality. That means close the river or rivers to all anglers, as DFO did in 1992 when it closed the cod fishery to everyone. Those who say the presence of hook-and-release anglers are necessary as a deterrent toward people netting are false. In August 2017, retention anglers were driven off the rivers again, and there were no numbers to be any deterrent. It is the greater number of local anglers providing information to enforcement that has helped stop poachers.

We have over 60 per cent of the wild Atlantic salmon and pristine salmon-producing waters in North America, for all Newfoundlanders to be proud of and enjoy together.

Remember that Bill Taylor, president and CEO of the ASF, a self-interest group in favour of hook and release only, said, “no one should be allowed to catch and eat a wild Atlantic salmon ever again.” Is that what Newfoundlanders want?

I’m including a picture taken in 1948 of me in my father’s arms, holding a salmon rod, at the age of three. I am now 73 and have spent the past 16 years advocating strong stewardship of our rivers, since DFO asked for help in 2002. The scientists know the importance of human behaviour, to include the human factor, when making decisions for our rivers.

Yes, Don, “insatiable human greed” must be stopped. Let’s make sure we keep our valued rivers open to all anglers, or closed to all anglers, while we work together to help any river needing our help.

Sid Styles

Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group

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