Fishing Friends – a coalition of fishery scientists, concerned individuals and organizations in New Brunswick called CAST – Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow – that includes members of the Irving family, the Miramichi Salmon Association, Cook Aquaculture and the University of New Brunswick has come up with a concept to capture annually a relatively small number of outward migrating Atlantic salmon smolts from the Miramichi and grow these up in the MSA hatchery until they are sexually mature fall fish. These fish will then be released at the proper time during the fall run to seek their own spawning sites in the Miramichi watershed. The idea here is that the Miramichi watershed is vast, and many parts of it are simply inaccessible for stocking with fry. The reverse concept of adult fish being set free to seek out their own mates and spawn is a new idea that allows some of these unreachable areas to be propagated. Additionally, while only about 75 to 100 of the 5,000 smolts planned for this project would live to return from the sea, the vast majority of them will live in the hatchery to become adult spawners. So while 5,000 smolts are neither here nor there out of the 1,000,000 plus that leave the Miramichi each year, an additional 2,000 spawning adults could have a significant impact. Is this program the salvation of the Miramichi salmon run? I don’t believe so; in fact I don’t know that the Miramichi run needs a salvation. But it could sure use some help right now as we discover and correct why smolts return from the ocean as adults at a quarter their former abundance. In the meantime we need to cover every base, and this is a good bet to be very helpful.
This project has the approval of just about everyone in the management process except for one individual in the New Brunswick Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Here is where your help comes in. I have pasted in below a letter written by Mark Hambrook president of the MSA to Minister Tootoo of Canadian Fisheries and Oceans. Please read the letter, and after it I will suggest how you can help:
Honourable Hunter Tootoo
Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada 200 Kent Street, Station 15E195 Ottawa, Ontario
Dear Minister Tootoo:
I am writing to express frustration from the Directors of the Miramichi Salmon Association with officials at DFO Gulf Region for declining the issuance of permits for critical salmon work we plan to do this spring. We are members of the CAST group (Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow) that has put together a team of scientists, conservation groups and industry to help in the recovery of Atlantic salmon in the Miramichi River by using new innovative techniques that could be applied in other rivers facing serious declines of salmon stocks. Many of the techniques being proposed have been embraced by DFO officials, but one program that has caused the most friction is the development of a new
stocking technique – the capture of wild smolts, raising them to adults in the hatchery and then releasing them to spawn naturally in the river. We took over the operation of Canada’s oldest fish hatchery from DFO in 1997 with the mandate to stock the river with salmon, in a similar fashion as DFO had done for over 100 years. Times change and new techniques need to be developed, so we have consulted with other professionals and have developed a top team of research scientists to direct this new effort. We understand there might be theoretical risks associated with this technique and that is why this scientific team has developed an extensive monitoring program to address these issues.
We are in a situation that if the permits are not issued this week, we will lose the opportunity to capture smolts this year and set the program back and perhaps lose some of the PhD positions that our university partners have recruited for this program. We understand that DFO’s role is to safeguard the
resource, but delaying the collection is not reasonable as the collection of young salmon smolts will have a very small impact on the wild population, but releasing the adult salmon back could have a major positive impact on the stocks. This won’t occur for at least 16 months allowing ample time to agree on the experimental protocols with DFO before adults are released, to ensure no harm is done.
I know you have stated that you want to base your decisions on sound scientific advice and I can assure you that we want the same and have developed a team of university researchers that have the expertise to conduct this program. We hope that the permit decision can be rectified this week.
President, Miramichi Salmon Association
Please send an e-mail to Minister Tootoo. Use your own words as you wish, but the key message is to request that Mr. Tootoo immediately direct New Brunswick officials to let this program go forward. The smolts will be coming down the river shortly, and we must have permission to collect the fish now or an entire year will be lost.
Here are the e-mail addresses to use:
Minister Tootoo firstname.lastname@example.org
Suggested copies to:
Dominic Leblanc email@example.com
PS If you want a little help with the exact message, here is what I sent them last night:
Dear Minister Tootoo – I am a concerned Atlantic salmon angler. The Miramichi salmon runs have declined over recent years, and a group called CAST has come up with a plan to help the runs. I understand that this program conceived by a group of knowledgeable individuals is in danger of being delayed. Timing is now critical for 2016, and I am writing to ask you to direct New Brunswick officials to let this program go forward immediately.
Sincerely, Brad Burns 18 Merrill Rd. Falmouth, ME and 428 So Cains River Rd. Blackville, NB, CA