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Salmon association says hook-and-release needs to be continued in 2016

FREDERICTON • One of New Brunswick's leading Atlantic salmon organizations has passed a resolution calling for the continuation of hook-and-release programs on all of the province's rivers for the foreseeable future, and possibly much longer.

The Miramichi Salmon Association, which represents dozens of stakeholders on New Brunswick's largest salmon river, said it is recommending continuation of the current hook-and-release policy for the 2016 fishing season.

But given the declining numbers of wild Atlantic salmon, the organization is warning hook-and-release may have to continue even longer as the stocks struggle to rebound.

"Our resolution recommends the continuation of the hook-and-release policy for Atlantic salmon with single barbless hooks on New Brunswick rivers for the 2016 fishing season, and until such time as science demonstrates the population has rebounded to sufficient levels to support a limited amount of retention during the recreational salmon fishing season" said Mark Hambrook, president of the association.

He said the move is "regrettable," adding that the association realizes the restriction on keeping at least a few fish is causing hardship and discontent along the province's storied salmon rivers. "The unprecedented historic low returns of fish seen over both the long and short term, including the most recent three years, scientifically supports the continuing need to ensure every fish is released and has the opportunity to spawn" Hambrook said.

"Continued catch-and-release will give the population its best chance to rebound to desired and sustainable levels."

The number of salmon returning to North American rivers in the past four decades has plummeted by almost 90 per cent, forcing the Canadian government to enforce a season of catch-and-release throughout the Maritimes in 2015.

The Miramichi Salmon Association is only recommending continuation of the mandatory catch-and-release program. Ultimately, the decision about 2016 is up to the federal Fisheries Department.

DFO spokesman Steve Hachey said in a recent interview that what happens in 2016 depends on the health and size of the salmon stock and "an assessment of recent and projected trends."

He said a decision on the limitations for the 2016 salmon recreational fishery will be announced before the season is set to begin in the spring.

"It is quite difficult to quantify the benefits of this measure, especially so early," Hachey said.

"Many factors come into play in salmon survival. Fishing pressure is one of the factors we can act upon. Lessening that pressure could be beneficial to the salmon population"

Many anglers and people who earn their living from recreational salmon fishing have argued that hook-and-release is decimating the multimillion-dollar industry.

The number of salmon licences sold as of mid-September was the lowest since 1972, and a 38.4 per cent drop from last year - from 20,103 to 12,380.

Along with the decrease in salmon licences, bookings at the province's Crown water stretches were down by half this year.

A study by economic analysts Gardner Pinfold, commissioned by the Atlantic Salmon Federation, shows that in 2010, anglers in this province alone spent $44 million chasing salmon.

From Miramichi Salmon Association calls for continuation of hook-and-release program
(Miramichi Leader November 12, 2015)

Back to 28 Reasons to Oppose Mandatory Release of Grilse