Miramichi Salmon Association Conservation Initiative 2020

Atlantic salmon fishing friends –
I spent much of the day on this past Friday 2/16 listening in to a Miramichi Salmon Association board meeting that took place in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
In this meeting there was discussion about the very poor returns of salmon last year to the Miramichi, a discussion of the probable reasons, and what the MSA’s plan is to slow and reverse the downward trend. The plan is not completely final, but here are some of the key points:
• Cold water area enhancements and protection of the salmon while they are using these sanctuaries
• Significant reduction in the striped bass population
• Significant reduction in the grey seal population
• Stocking using the latest techniques and especially the Salmon Adult Supplementation program developed by the Coalition for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow CAST and its partners
• Removal of smallmouth bass from Miramichi Lake and the upper Miramichi by rotenone
As has been suggested to me by several of you I have asked for inclusion for some kind of cull on mergansers. There is already a generous but unused bag limit for fall hunting of mergansers, but no one hunts these birds any more. What is needed is either a spring season or some sort of nesting control.
A key point for nearly all of these programs is permission and participation by DFO. Really nothing can go forward without their permission, and in today’s Canadian politics that also means the support of the First Nation communities. While one would think that the state of the Miramichi’s Atlantic salmon population would galvanize all parties into a plan of action, the reality is that it hasn’t yet. One key ally that should be present in this effort is the Atlantic Salmon Federation. The ASF has opposed and continues to oppose the CAST SAS program. The best science minds on this subject from the University of New Brunswick and the Canadian Rivers Institute feel that the justification for the SAS program is conclusive, and that the really big risk is in not supplementing the population right now considering the continuing decline in the population of adult spawners in the Miramichi. Personally I have come to agree with this assessment.
We are at another critical juncture in the SAS program, as CAST was not given permits last spring to capture the wild smolts which are raised in the MSA hatchery to become the spawning adults. If the permits are not received this year a dangerous lapse will open up in the programs ability to supply fall spawners. Discussions are underway for the needed permissions, and we’ll have our fingers crossed for positive news.
Among the items discussed at the meeting was the status of recreational angling for salmon on the Miramichi. It was reported that at least at this point catch and release angling will continue to be allowed. It is apparently understood by DFO that without C/R angling there would be little or no support for salmon conservation, and that the 600 plus full-time equivalent jobs and $20 million dollar industry supported by recreational salmon fishing on the Miramichi would be lost.
It was reported that a salmon biologist close to this issue has calculated that with the rate of population decline the SW Miramichi population would become extinct by 2037! The NW will become extinct much sooner. This has to be very sobering information to anyone interested in these fish. It was also calculated that if we ended c/r fishing on the SW Miramichi that the life of the salmon population would be extended by just 9 months. That also does not take into account that recreational anglers fishing on the river, and watching over and maintaining salmon pools, are all that stand between the salmon and the net poachers. Given the potential of net wielding poachers to remove salmon, as was demonstrated last summer on both the Miramichi and the Cains, it seems clear that ending recreational c/r fishing would actually have a negative influence on the viability of the Miramichi Atlantic salmon population.
I hope to present more information soon on how we individually can take action to help in this critical situation.

Brad Burns

8 Comments on “Miramichi Salmon Association Conservation Initiative 2020

  1. I and many others appreciate you keeping us up to date on what is happening on the river…..we can hope that DFO wakes up soon……they seem to be the wrench in the cog that is holding up progress on the river….

  2. Brad, I had to sign off the meeting earlier than I wanted. Was there any discussion of looking into the effects of forestry and agricultural practices as well as glyphosate spraying at the meeting?

  3. Is this really only a Miramichi problem? Surely the Predator Striped Bass Population and the Gray Seals will soon move away, presumably up North if the run of Salmon , out as smolts or in as Grilse , or other food sources do not provide enough food to sustain those populations . That should surely be just as much of a concern for all East Coast Salmon Rivers

    Isn,t it time for an Holistic approach involving all interested Parties or am I overestimating the co-operative spirit of out Provincial neighbours and friends. I am certainly aware that the DFO are one stumbling block

    Glad to have put the price up on a few of your Auction items . A shame the Caribbean internet couldn,t cope with the frenzy at the end. Good luck tomorrow

    • Salmon populations are down in all but the very most northern rivers. Very few rivers though – and Scotland’s Dee may be one exception – have suffered the decline of the Miramichi. Striped bass are considered the most likely culprit as they have been protected into an unheard of population level at the same time sea conditions have made it difficult for salmon. The bass population has declined some from its absolute peak, and we can certainly hope that helps the salmon numbers of the next few years. The bass population, though, is still 10 times the level originally calculated by DFO to be a sufficient level. A whole lot more needs to be done in that arena. The aboriginal fishery only took 11,000 fish of its 50,000 quota. The commercial bass fishery should be opened up to non-aboriginal participants.
      It seems to be very difficult to get everyone to agree on any one solution, and it is likely that beyond the immediate problem with striped bass the problems shared by all the rivers are likely on the high seas and still poorly understood. The Greenland harvest is a problem, and while the North Atlantic Salmon Fund/ASF buyout should really help, the whole fishery should end. The only way to do that is for the Canadian, US, and UK governments to put the needed pressure on Greenland to make it happen. They could easily get that done, but so far they’ve done nothing.

  4. Brad, Thank you again for your knowledgeable comments. Do you have any update information on the experimental river study? I have been very interested in following that project. Hopefully the DFO ruling that prevents collecting this year’s smolt doesnt stop the project.

    • Jack – David Roth who heads up the Experimental River project for CAST is speaking here tonight on the subject. He is very careful about his comments, but I think I can safely say that everything they are seeing so far points to the parr generated by the SAS adults as being totally equivalent to those of pure wild origin. I’ll give a full report after the meeting.

  5. Hello Brad; So important for gents like you to keep waving the flag. THANK YOU. Maintaining a Miramichi camp across the Atlantic (as you know, my official residence is in Geneva-Switzerland) is a rather costly proposition. When I first bought the camp (on the Bartholomew river), I would take pics of salmon with a special polaroïd lens; I haven’t had that occuring for a while. I believe, during the summer months, the Bartholomew generally runs a few degrees cooler than the main river. It has always been my hope that this would bring a run of salmon up towards my camp. The occasions are few now, when I observe positive signs (i.e. rising fish) during the C&R salmon season … Though, during late fall hunting, I’m sometimes privileged to observe the unique show of salmon spawning below camp. As a result, an encouraging number of parr are showing in June of next year. Having said that, also a steady population of mergansers, herons and other predators. I must admit that I love to watch a pair of otters fishing below camp – just exactly what damage to they do ? I’ll continue to free the cold water trickles, running into the Barth in hopes that some fish will hold on their way way up river, thus, replacing the rod with pick-axe and shovel, you’ll see me wading ankle-deep along the shoreline, roll my sleeves back and spit in my hands … Re; net poaching: End nineties, approching by pickup, on the backside of my camp, as I switched on the veranda lights, all hell broke loose down in the river. Ignorant, I thought it was a bear taking flight. Next day, when wetting a line, I cut loose a coarse net. Only then did it dawn on me. Is this business still going on, really? Human greed has no limits, seemingly.
    Best regards from Switzerland and keeping my hopes up we’ll personally meet on the river or some other, less important place. John Stucki, Geneva-Switzerland and occasionally Blackville NB.

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