I really love Atlantic salmon fishing, and I especially love to do it in the Miramichi. In the Miramichi you can normally fish in a relatively wild setting, on wade-friendly gravel, and both see and sometimes catch beautiful salmon that go from 5-pound grilse to 30-pound repeat spawners. It isn’t all that far from the northeastern United States, the Canadians are a friendly lot, and we have similar laws and speak the same language. You don’t have to be Bill Gates to own a camp on the river or belong to who’s who on Wall Street to get invited to join a club with decent water. There’s a lot to like. I try in my blog to write about it in a similarly positive tone, because that’s how I feel, and I know that people don’t like to hear whiners anyway.
I’m going to whine a bit now though. I’m going to direct most of that towards Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I should say to their Gulf office as opposed to the Maritime office. The Maritime office is located in Halifax and has the Bay of Fundy coast up into Central New Brunswick, stopping just short of the Miramichi, then over most of Nova Scotia including the Atlantic on its south shore. The Gulf office stands for the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. It is located in Moncton, and it handles almost all of New Brunswick’s active salmon rivers. You can google around on the DFO website and find a map with all this info.
Apparently, there is a fair amount of autonomy in these offices as there is surely quite a different approach to Atlantic salmon management. On both coasts of Canada they are enthusiastically using what was essentially the CAST program of raising smolts in captivity to adult age and them releasing them to spawn. Supporters of this approach believe it is the closest thing to purely wild spawning that we can get. An acquaintance of mine was invited to fish this fall in the Salmon River – not yet open to public angling for salmon – on New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy south coast in an experiment to see what was there for kelts bound for the ocean. The Salmon River does not have suitable over wintering habitat for kelts, so the spent fish head back to sea after spawning. Fishing was excellent and in a short while he caught a number of spawned-out adult salmon. This same individual had been skin diving in the upper reaches of the river during the late summer and had seen what he considered to be an impressive number of parr – and he would know. These adult salmon had been raised in ocean cages out in the Bay of Fundy. These activities were all sanctioned by the Maritime office of the DFO. Had it not been for the Gulf office of the DFO we could undoubtedly now be enjoying major increases in adult spawning in the Miramichi from the CAST program.
Samuel Johnson, a famous 18th century English poet wrote that “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” DFO certainly seems to have a bottomless pit of objections, and they continue to this day. One evening a couple of falls ago, after decades of the Miramichi Salmon Association gathering a few adult salmon from the river in the fall to spawn out for the next spring’s fry stocking, a friend and I put a nice hen salmon into a spawning box at the Brophy Pool on the Cains. When the MSA showed up to collect the fish the next morning the box was gone! No, it had not been stolen. DFO had sent a warden down the river in the last minutes of daylight, presumably looking for netters. He spotted the box for which a permit had been issued to the MSA, opened it up, released the fish, then took off downriver with the box. The reason was supposedly that there was no one there guarding the fish. How utterly absurd. These boxes had been used by the MSA in this way for more than 20 years, and there had never been a problem. In fact, by creating a ridiculous list of stifling requirements DFO has now made even the spawning box program so incredibly restrictive that given the vagaries of fishing it is entirely possible – as it turned out to be in 2022 – to catch so few fish that no meaningful contribution can be made to the river’s natural spawning.
Some folks may not be terribly concerned to see the adult breeder collection hobbled. There is a feeling that the adults that do make it back to spawn should be left to spawn in the wild – and in truth while the Miramichi system has gone from about 100,000 adult fish just 10 or 12 years ago down to 20,000 – we still do have seemingly decent parr and smolt production. How can that be? Well, when you have less spawners in the river the survival of the fry is much greater because prime habitat is less crowded, and there is more food available for them. In theory this could rebuild the returning adult population within a few years.
The reality of smolts today, though, is that only something like half of them live to make it out of the Miramichi. It used to be much higher before DFO’s policies grew a bloated striped bass population that is threatening not just salmon, but every other anadromous fish in the system including sea-run brook trout and smelts. In the end something like 2% of the numbers of smolts that start down the rivers in May ever come back to the Miramichi as adult salmon. That number used to be closer to 10%. What happened? God only knows for sure, but various commercial fishing activities in the ocean that catch – even as bycatch – migrating salmon, and fish that the adult salmon feed on like capelin, as well as or along with climate change are all prime suspects. Here the bureaucrats in both Canada and America could be of some help if they were so inclined. Greenland didn’t even know that Atlantic salmon swam in their waters until the late 1960s, and now they claim a right to gill net them no matter the condition of the stocks. Instead of our bureaucrats telling Greenland where the bear shits in the buckwheat, we send out wardens on such useless missions as prosecuting local fishermen for releasing more than 2 salmon in a given day – if they are ever so fortunate with severely decreased stocks and required barbless hooks to catch more than 2 in one day. Appalling!
Anyway, I remember Mark Hambrook telling me after the crushing blows of DFO destroying the CAST program – to which the Canadian government had contributed millions of taxpayer dollars – that they were going to let the MSA stock fry from hatchery spawned CAST fish. Apparently, this technique was okay, because some of the objection had been that CAST fish might be spawning with wild fish on the river’s spawning grounds. Fast forward to the early fall of 2022. The first wild smolts collected in Ludlow back in the spring of 2020, and that had been growing in the MSA hatchery, were now ready to spawn. But permission to spawn these fish so that the fry could be stocked in the Miramichi the next spring was denied. Why did they go back on their word? Outrageous! It reminds me of the Wizard of Oz where with every incredibly difficult demand that Dorothy fulfilled a new and even more difficult roadblock to progress was offered up as an excuse.
I have been meaning to write both to the Premier of New Brunswick and the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and tell them that DFO’s Gulf Region’s current policies are crippling the chances of restoring the Miramichi’s run of Atlantic salmon to its past glory. I’m going to do it soon and I’ll send you a copy in hopes that if we all contribute to the conversation some changes might be made.
I’m also going to comment here on the smallmouth bass situation. As many of you know smallmouth bass were stocked illegally in Miramichi Lake more than 12 years ago. Illegal stocking is going on in many locations. There was a recent article in the Portland Maine newspaper about how rampant illegal stockings are in northern Maine. The MSA and the ASF jumped on the bandwagon immediately after the smallmouth were discovered – I remember the meeting in Boston when the illegal stocking was announced. The government – every branch of it including New Brunswick administration and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans – could or would simply not make a decision to remove the smallmouths with rotenone even though everyone knew it was the only choice. The MSA and the ASF never gave up working on the rotenone solution. Meanwhile DFO did put up an effort to keep the pot from boiling over by using various fishing methods to try to keep the bass from spreading.
The bass did spread into the river, though, and finally a rotenone solution was prescribed for both the lake and the river. Permits were gathered with great expense of time and money – much of it supplied by the government – rotenone was purchased, experts and volunteers were organized, and a date was set in 2021 to apply the rotenone. When the time came a group of First Nations women from a tribe on the western side of the Province decided to disrupt the procedure by physically blocking it. The government let it all happen and the rotenone was canceled for 2021.
The winter of 2021/2022 was spent trying to convince the opposition that the rotenone was necessary and safe. The opponents would have none of it. They simply didn’t want it, and no amount of reason was going to change their minds. They even brought in professional protestors. We know that because some of the protestor’s photographs were recognized from their protesting with the truckers in Ottawa. The MSA, ASF and supporters were ultimately successful in foiling some of the protestors and applying rotenone to a small section of the Miramichi River below the outlet from Miramichi Lake. Some two-dozen dead smallmouth bass were collected, and doubtless there were more that were never recovered. There were no negative effects apparent.
The MSA, ASF and supporters wanted to go right back and apply rotenone to the lake, but a small group of camp owners from the lake as well as the First Nations protestors blocked access to the lake. Faced with more confrontation and insufficient support from the authorities the application in the lake was abandoned for 2022. As far as I know the future of the program is now uncertain. It is widely believed that the Province of New Brunswick itself has to directly take over the advocacy role on this program for it to go forward. They haven’t been willing to do it so far, so who knows how it will go. Again, I blame the failure of this program to date on weak and indecisive action by the government. Hopefully that will change. If it doesn’t I can see no course but an organized effort to kill every Miramichi smallmouth bass that can possibly be killed. Hopefully the DFO will continue its efforts within the lake and maintain a barricade between the lake and the river. I’m also urging the MSA to look into the possibility of operating an electrofishing boat on the river. I have no illusions that such a program would rid the river of the bass, but it might keep the population so low that if the political will within the Province changes, or new techniques become available, that a more permanent solution could be implemented down the road.
Meanwhile, oblivious to all this, spawning is over on the Miramichi for the year, and the river is in the process of freezing over. Freeze up has been hampered by high water. That last raise on December 9 reached 4.25 meters, but it has since dropped back to 1.75 meters – still high but not terribly so. This will have flushed many of the kelts down into the lower section of the river and the estuary. Earlier in the week water temperature had risen to 4.3C/40F but it has now dropped back to just a hair above zero. Over the next week air temps are forecast to be at or below freezing during the day and a few degrees below freezing for the night. This is somewhat above normal, and is due to a cloudy, stormy air mass that is forecast to persist through the period. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the river fill in with ice during this coming week.
Thanks for reading. Brad Burns
For those that understand, no explanation is needed… for those that WON”T understand, no explanation is possible…..
Loved your Blog Brad. So terribly sad that DFO have got their heads so far up their fundamental orifices and have become obstructive rather than pro-active.
Keep up the good work.
I believe that the current forestry operation in NB is a significant cause for decline in fish and wildlife in NB. The practice of clear cutting creates rapid run, greater fluctuations in water height and high levels of silt in the watershed. The cutting to waters edge and not leaving a barrier along small brooks causes higher water temperature. The spraying of Glyphosate in the thousands of pounds that finds it way into all of the water shed is having effect on all of the habitats. The planting of largely GMO trees and creating of a Mono culture to the effect of elimination of biodiversity, although may not directly effect salmon it effects all other wild life.
Although anecdotal, these forestry practices have greatly reduced the insect population on the Miramichi over the past few years. Juvenal salmon’s main diet is insects. So I believe that all of these things add up to great harm to the continued salmon health.
It seems that MSA not only avoids these issues as a effect on salmon, but endorses these practices. IE having Irving forestry who manages all of NB forest celebrated and given a public forum at the up coming Maine dinner.
I believe that MSA should be seeking to have no clear cutting or spraying within good distances from all brooks, streams and rivers and provide a larger percentage of no cut land in the province where Biodiversity in allowed should be MSA’s agenda.
Larry, I completely agree with you on our current forestry practices. I spend a lot of time on our local tributaries and have been in the canoe rental business for 43 years. Why our conservation groups are not all over this I do not understand? I firmly believe that this is going to come back to haunt our conservation groups in a very serious way in the future. I belive in a forestry industry but it has to make sense. What I seem to see is an industry that is compltely focused on fibre for economical reasons and very little consideration to rivers, streams, wildlife, etc. We are failing in a major way with our buffer zones. You would have to be compltely blind not to see this if you spend any amount of time at all in our forests. Another observation I would like to add to yours in regards to the impact of current forestry practices on the Miramichi watershed is that our rivers are generally seeing two ice flows during the winter months now. The valleys are cut so hard that when we have a thaw there is nothing to hold all the snow melt causing a raise in river levels in mid winter and ice flow. This is also ripping the trees out along the river banks and changing our rivers on an annual bases. I find it embarrassing that our provincial government is such poor stewarts of our forests and streams. To me , we live in an age where global warming is being addressed all over the world. It would be so easy to establish larger buffer zones. Keeping our rivers cooler in the summer is key to salmon survival. The question I keep asking, why is such an easy fix so ignored? We don’t have the time for 5-10 year studies to figure this one out. Why cain’t we just use common sense?
Brock and Larry – I was part of the decision to invite Irving to speak at the MSA US dinner coming up in Feb. Men who I have come to respect at the MSA believe that Jim Irving thinks that he is being responsible, and science based, when it comes to Irving’s forestry practices. I’m not particularly well educated in forestry science, but everything that I have seen and learned while fishing the Miramichi leads me to believe that you are correct about things like buffer zones, and definitely spraying herbicides on thousands of acres of landscape. That especially just can’t be good.
Perhaps I’m being naive, but I hope that groups like the MSA listening to Irving and carrying on a dialogue with them will be beneficial. Not everything Irving has done is bad. Their financing of the CAST program and the Arris underwater cameras are examples of important good deeds. Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say. I do not believe that the MSA will ever shrink from saying what they believe is right in terms of environmental stewardship for the salmon. Brad
Larry – I replied to you and Brock at the same time. I assure you that I will bring up your comments at our next board meeting. I also hope that you will send them directly to the Robyn McCallum PhD, the current president of the MSA. She is young, bright and her education is in the field that we are discussing. Brad
Would you please provide the names and addresses of those government individuals that are controlling these programs. I’m sure all of your readers would write letters (as they have in the past) objecting to the current management of these issues. A proposed draft would be helpful. Keep up the good work. Rick.
Thanks Richard. Yes, I will be publishing that. Just another gripe that I have with DFO. Go on to the Gulf DFO site and see if you can find the name of a human being. The ONLY way to contact them is through an info e-mail address. I have used it several times. The normal answer is short, unfriendly, and takes a long time to receive.
It would be interesting to know what that Cains River warden did to upset his boss in Moncton to have been sent out to canoe the Cains late on that day . In 12 summers of fishing the Miramichi, Cains and Restigouche I have never crossed paths with a NB warden . Brad now I understand why CAST and rotenone programs ( Nova Scotia ) were allowed in other parts of Canada and why that process ( years of delays on rotenone) and the CAST program ( years of delay ) were not allowed to proceed in N.B , I wonder if anyone in Ottawa understands how the Moncton office has been a hindrance rather than a help , it’s title is Department of Fisheries and Ocean . Brock & Larry articulated the forestry and buffer zones issues , thanks for detailing these issues Brad .
Brad apparently you know nothing about what is going on in New Brunswick crown land or you would not invited Jim Irving to your dinner. He and his greedy family are one of the main reasons for the out of control harvesting on crown land. And to top things off they pay very little for the wood. I would bet the people in Main would not put up with what is going on here. Wake up
Jim – Thanks for your comments. I hear statements like yours from time to time when I am up in NB, but I don’t know much about the Province’s politics. Why does the legislature put up with these activities? Brad
Couldn’t agree more on DFO’s dereliction of duty. Non-support of the CAST program and also not adjusting the striped bass bag limits and slot limits in wake of the bass population imbalance is disappointing to say the least. They need to get upbraided by the CDN Feds. How to do that?
Tom – I don’t know what effect if any that writing to the Minister will have, but I’m going to do it and urge others to do it also. Brad
Brad: Thanks for writing this. As always, your remarks are informative — as have been the ensuing comments — and I’m glad to see that your tireless role as champion of the Miramichi salmon repeats your bravura performance in the realm of Atlantic striped bass conservation. You are a wonderful role model and resource that gives the rest of us turkeys out here inspiration!!!
Thanks Fred. I hope all is well with you. Brad
Thanks for saying what needs to be said Brad. It’s not whining … it’s stating an honest perspective that many of us share. The salmon fishery, the environment and the multitude (too many) of organizations who have an interest in Atlantic Salmon make this a very complex and complicated subject to discuss. With respect to DFO I believe that we provide them with convenient ways to bob and weave when it comes to holding them accountable on certain matters because we have so many organizations trying to have their independent voice heard rather than one voice being heard. Further, many of our organizations are, in part, funded by interess (both political and private) that further complicates matters. The result is that it allows DFO to divide and conquer the industry and provides ample wiggle room for them to get away with many of the things we fundamentally do not agree with. The result is that we actually seem to have little to no voice in spite of all of the money and effort that is poured into saving our fishery. The New Brunswick Provincial Government is culpable here too and while they may say that they support the salmon fishery they walk a fine line of taking too strong of a position (environment policy as an example) for fear of alienating other sectors of our economy like aquaculture farming or forestry interests. I get that and very much appreciate how hard it is, but the government and its leadership including Premier Higgs and Minister Holland, need to decide if we will save the Atlantic Salmon and bring our Rivers back to their former glory or let them go, in doing so allow our rural history and rural economy die in the process. I know that our Province cries poor and has many extraordinary competing challenges to address like the healthcare system, the economy, population growth etc. while ironically producing record surpluses. Our industry, regardless of how fragmented and conflicted we are however can and must be part of the solution. If our Provincial Government would consider taking responsibility for managing of our own rivers away from DFO (like the Quebec model) we could at least have ownership over decisions that impact the fishery as opposed to always feeling like we are held hostage by this Federal Department. All of this requires bold leadership which is in short supply in political circles these days although perhaps Alberta has the right idea by challenging the feds. I am a proud and passionate Federalist but I am not prepared to sit idly by and watch DFO take our industry in a direction that threatens the existence of the Atlantic Salmon or our incredible salmon angling history and legacy. Thank you for your words Brad … they are the start of a conversation which I hope may continue and one which I am prepared to be part of. “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” ― Tony Robbins”
Ian – great comments. I wonder about presenting an online petition to the Premier urging him to have the Province take over management of the salmon fishery as they do in Quebec. Brad
It certainly couldn’t hurt … and Mike Holland, Minister of Natural Resources & Energy has certainly always been pro outdoors albeit more hunting than fishing. That said, he is an avid outdoorsman which is good. The current Federal Minister of Rural Economic Development, Gudie Hitchings was the former owner of fly fishing lodges in Labrador, spent more than ten years on the board of the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association and rose to the position of president, and served on the inaugural national board of the Canadian Federation of Outfitting Associations. There are certainly people out there in key positions to whom this industry matters.
I wonder if the DFO has any policies now or in the works to deal with the growing numbers of striped bass that are in the river
John – Originally, when the striper population collapsed DFO said that a target population of around 30,000 fish was the goal. The last thing that I heard DFO was discussing a target of around 300,000. They have been asked to justify that number and explain what the basis for such a large number is, but they have refused to comment publicly. No one really has any idea what the population really is, but we know that it is outrageously large. No living person has ever seen a striped bass population that even begins to approach the levels now being seen. The trophy sea run brook trout fishery has all but disappeared, and the river’s smelt run is just a shadow of what it was before the bass came to power. One hallmark of the Gulf DFO is that there is very little to no comment or outreach. You simply don’t know what they are thinking about much of anything. It really is an abysmal example of public policy and relations. For a number of years DFO said that the striped bass warranted special protection because they had only one spawning area on the Northumberland Shore, and that was in the NW Miramichi. The MSA has proven that striped bass spawn in the Tabusintac, SW Miramichi, and Kouchibouguac Rivers. DFO has refused to either acknowledge this or even comment on it.
Brad your spot on its so frustrating for people who care about our system and Atlantic salmon and in the last 15 years the DFO has put every obstacle they could to try and ruin our system. As you have written above the Stocking programs, smallmouth bass, Striped bass population and many more we could name, its a disgrace that such an amazing river system is being managed so poorly with no real sense of direction only down the drain. As Ian stated above to many voices and it goes no where and its a shame .
The Miramichi has been Known for 100’s of years as Atlantic Salmon river and to me that means at all costs do what it takes to save Atlantic salmon while maintaining a healthy river system
I truly wish the province could take over the river as Quebec has done or one small group with knowledgeable people could make decisions without DFO holding all control cause sure seems to me and majority of people throughout the system that they are trying to ruin the Miramichi Salmon fishery
Thanks Tyler. Maybe we should try doing an online petition.
Brad, here is my rant….
I’ve been involved with salmon conservation for the better part of 30 years in one way or another. I started out on the Big Salmon River in the 80s. Joined up with the BSRAA for many years and was at the forefront of the fry stocking program after a few years. DFO use to say put the fry here, here and here….that only resulted in small smolt runs of 5000ish smolt going out when there were 30-80k (event 300K a couple of years) of fry being put in the river. I threw away the DFO rule book and put the fry in spots where fish would spawn or where fry would move to, such as a small brooks. This resulted in the best (to my knowledge as of today) smolt run since the collapse of the Bay of Fundy (BOF) Salmon, over 30,000+ smolt per year were estimated to have left the river after chucking the rule book out the window. Special thanks to Fort Folly First Nations & Tim Robinson, who run the smolt wheel and do most of the work on the river. Since my naïve days back then when i thought DFO was there to help, I’ve learned that DFO cannot be trusted, there is a large corruption at DFO Gulf and a smaller one at DFO Maritime. I could go on and on about this but I wont.
After the collapse of the BOF rivers, we started fishing on the Miramichi in 1991. Around 2000, we started saying that the MSA needs to do some stocking as numbers we up and down and not very consistent….
Brad did DFO tell your acquaintance that there was not “suitable over wintering habitat” in the BSR? I’m asking because yes, there is lots of wintering habitat. There might not be enough habitat if the river was at full capacity (around 5000 adult fish, the river is only 18Km long…). I have some pictures here of trout fishing there in April and catching kelts, even in the 2000s. Granted with such a short river it’s easy for the fish to drop back to the bay if they want….just another did DFO say that, thats not correct….
Forestry practices need to change, and all we really need is larger buffer zones, but not just around the rivers, around the brooks, creeks and streams that feed the rivers. With climate change this is a MUST to help keep the rivers cold. Mr Irving can say what he wants and buy whatever science he wants, he is like a politician and will only see what he wants, same with most Irving employees….you can’t buy common sense and a lot of that is missing from their science. This province runs on the forestry industry and that is not going to change, so rules for the industry must change.
I would like to address the CAST program comments. Did anyone actually see the fish from the CAST program that were raised at the hatchery? I did…they were ugly, deformed and look like AQUACULTURE fish. The noses were all rounded, most of the tail fins were rotted off. I personally would not want to see them released into the river in this condition. My understanding is it is possible to raise fish in a hatchery to adulthood and have them look “normal”, they do it all the time at the Mactaquac hatchery. I’m not going to spill the guts on this one, the MSA should be able to figure it out…perhaps it’s time for some new blood running the hatchery…..
The current CAST program in the Bay of Fundy being run by FFFN and sponsored by Cookes Aquaculture…..Most people in Southern New Brunswick that fish for Atlantics will tell you it’s a bad thing, why? Because of the Aquaculture. The collapse of the BOF Salmon coincides directly with the rise of the Aquaculture industry in the BOF. There have been direct links between the industry delousing their fish and the number of returning fish to the Saint John river system. Open Net pen Aquaculture has been proven all over the world to be harmful to native populations of fish. The BOF has one of the most concentrated Aquaculture businesses in the world…..I belive the BOF Salmon will never return until the Aquaculture is removed from the waters. Do you want the same thing on the Miramichi????
Would the CAST program help the Miramichi, I think it would help sustain the sock, but I would not want to see it done with open net pens…The MSA has the hatchery, produce the fish so they “look” like real fish and release them, or even better would be to spawn them and then move the eggs in the spring to “Stream side” or “in river” incubation boxes. You will get a 99% survival rate of fry vs <10% if left for it to be done naturally. Again the need to address the ROOTs of the problems….Stripers being the #1 obstacle right now. Only the lucky smolt survive, last number i saw was less then 1% make it out now. Some days I think people forgot how good the fishing was BEFORE the Striper boom….remember 2005-2011??? It doesn't matter what you do, if you don't address the root issues, then you can only sustain the population.
SMB, thats just a s*** show. The camp owners should be made to pay for the eradication. DFO again, does nothing….the agency that is suppose to protect the Atlantics…oh and DFO is also in charge of Aquaculture….see an issue here?
Anyway I could keep going and going…but I've chewed up enough of your time. Nice chatting with you at the ASF dinner Brad.
Paul P Elson
For those who don’t know Paul, he is the founder of the Facebook page Atlantic Salmon Anglers of New Brunswick. It is great to have his very informed comments here. You have made a lot of interesting and enlightening observations here. I want to respond, but will focus on the Miramichi.
When I said that I thought we could benefit from CAST I meant using the hatchery and not ocean pens. I’m certainly with you that we don’t want any ocean pens anywhere near the Miramichi. Whether it is best to use fry stocking, egg planting, or letting the hatchery raised adults spawn as wild fish I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone knows for certain, though there are lots of strong opinions. Maybe a mixture should be tried. The MSA is running a program now on the Dungarvon that does some of those things. One thing that seems obvious is that we must use smolts and raise them to adulthood to get our broodstock. The wild adult runs are just too diminished to take several hundred out of the river as the MSA used to do just a few years ago. We have smolts, though, in almost unlimited number for what we need. Since only 2% or so of them ever live to make it back to the river virtually all of your broodstock could be salvaged from the 98% mortality. Clearly it is the way to go. The problem is that DFO must really be opposed to any of it. When I found out this summer that they weren’t going to let the MSA spawn out broodstock raised from smolts that came from Ludlow I simply couldn’t believe that anyone in a responsible position could be that deceitful. Those fish cost the MSA and their donors hundreds of thousands of dollars to grow up for essentially nothing. Spawning them out would have created more than a half million first feeding fry going into the Miramichi next June.
Off the subject, but just to keep the record straight, I have never talked with anyone from DFO about the Big Salmon River. When I said that it wasn’t suitable habitat for kelts to overwinter it was just an observation based on the river having no real estuary. It just dumps into the Bay of Fundy. Usually kelts like a large, slow-moving area of fresh or at least partially fresh water to spend the winter in. The BSR doesn’t appear to have that, and the fact was that the kelts were caught almost down in the Bay, a long way from where they spawned. I assume that they were on their way back to sea.
We can all see where this game is heading. With this risk averse strategy that DFO is pushing they want to simply stop all fishing for salmon as they have on many other rivers once the population drops to a certain level. None of those rivers have ever re-opened. That makes it perfect for DFO. They can spend everything on salaries etc and study away while not having to concern themselves with outreach to a bunch of pesky fishermen.
Brad, great article! I could not agree more with your assessment of DFO. I look forward to reading your letters to New Brunswick’s Premier and DFO’s Minister.
I would urge you to consider sending ASF a similar letter, and perhaps even suggesting to friends, as I have done, that their donations might be put to better use elsewhere.
ASF avoided supporting CAST, and even went so far as to issue a press release trying to justify their opposition to the project. Much of the current preoccupation with the genetic integrity of “wild” Atlantic salmon stems from ASF’s lobbying efforts and ongoing attempts to discredit stocking as a viable management strategy. Instead, they have continually advocated for inland policies that benefit relatively few rivers, and sat by as salmon were extirpated from large parts of their southern range.
The idea of “wild” Atlantic salmon sounds fine, but in practice it overlooks climate change, aquaculture, and generations of stocking. We are not dealing with a “wild” or pristine environment, and our management strategies should reflect that.
Brad – we could spend quite a lot of time talking about the ASF. Very different than most of ASF’s projects, the Miramichi is still a river with a viable salmon run, in fact it is one of the two or three largest in North America. Until the striped bass population is brought under control it needs to be supplemented, and at this point maybe strongly supplemented to help get it back to a level more within historic norms. This was the purpose of the CAST program, and it or something like it could certainly be resurrected. I think we have to try and get help either from the Province or the Minister’s office. We have to elevate the approval process for supplemental stocking in the Miramichi to a power that will be more reasonable to work with than the current Gulf office of DFO. Brad
Thanks Brad for your thoughts on these subjects. It isn’t only Quebec that regulates fishing provincially. Nova Scotia has a Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture which manages recreational and commercial fishing. In NS, they used Rotenone to kill smb in Piper Lake in 2020 in the Saint Mary’s River system and just this past Sept in Dobson Lake near Canso. I’m not sure why NB allows DFO to manage our rivers. They are doing a poor job of doing so imo. Lack of presence, lack of communication, and lack of information plague their functionality. The issue of the stripers is a clear example of how they have dropped the ball and I have witnessed first hand how the huge number of these bass have impacted the salmon and especially the sea trout run.
We need to lobby our government to create our own NB version of a Dept of Inland Fisheries that is more responsible than what we have now. Unfortunately, governments care only about one thing… jobs and the economy. I recall Premier Higgs declaring with pride to my local Rotary Club that there was barely a tree left standing between Fosterville and Forest City. This area’s hardwood stands (in the headwaters of the St Croix River) have been recently raped of cover. To him, deforestation is a sign of progress and prosperity. I’m sure he feels the same about the Miramichi.
Regarding the SMB debacle, I am baffled that such a small group of people can derail a scientifically formulated plan that cost millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of work and volunteer time. Not just once, but twice. This plan was designed to PROTECT native species and a cultural, historical way of life. In Canada the last 2 years have seen the emergence of a movement from our indigenous community who are seeking the righting of decades of wrongs inflicted by colonialism. Although I fully support this movement, I feel that all measures should have been taken by DFO remove those protestors and proceed with the treatment of Miramichi Lake. However, the optics any kind of enforcement against this community was clearly more than the Dept or government would tolerate. Regardless, I fear the cows are out of the barn anyway. I hope I’m wrong.
You accurately describe what many of us think. Well done Brad.
Very good forum for us salmon enthusiasts. I live, work and recreate on 3 of the greatest rivers in NB, the Wolastoq (sp?), Nashwaak and Miramichi. The degredation of these river habitats over my life time is shocking. Don’t get me started!! Keep the conversation going folks…words and deeds do make a difference!
Thanks for the comments, Budd. I’m very glad to have your participation.
Brad, your informed, passionate and almost always non-moaning blogs are a joy to read. At approaching 75 years of age, my own former decades of proactive passion for my own local Scottish river have been effectively extinguished by the inaction, prevarication and refusal to listen to experienced voices, by of those now in charge here. But your own positivity and never-say-never, are a light in the darkness for Salmo Salar’s future. Keep it up, my friend!
Always wonderful to hear from you Dave. Glutton for punishment as I may be I have two weeks in your backyard this March. I lost my second week on the Naver due to Covid, but I have replaced it with a week at the very end of March on the Helmsdale. I’ve never fished it and am really looking forward to it. All we can do is keep punching, aye. What happened? When I first met you in the early 2000s all was optimism on the Dee and the Miramichi.