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The Miramichi needs a voice, not a spokesman.

Link to DFO Recreational Salmon Fishing Survey
Five Unique Management Challenges Facing the Miramichi
1) The Miramichi River System is actually comprised of four distinct rivers.
The Main Southwest Miramichi, the Little Southwest Miramichi, the Northwest Miramichi and The Renous each have their own head of tide and each require a management strategy tailored to their unique characteristics. Until DFO implements a "River by River" management plan with accurate and specific measures of adult returns and juvenile production, we will be subjected to a simplistic, "one size fits all" strategy which is simply not working.

2) Lack of Adequate Adult Assessment Data
It has been wisely observed that "you can't manage what you can't count" and nowhere is that more apparent than with Miramichi salmon. In an era when almost everything is done electronically, it is frightening how inefficient and inconclusive DFO's adult assessment process is on the Miramichi system.

Using a mark and recapture data method, a small number of fish are intercepted and tagged in the bay and then recaptured in trap nets located further upstream, in Millerton for the Main Southwest Miramichi and Cassilis for the Northwest Miramichi. Based upon the number of tagged fish caught, a percentage of efficiency is established through which adult run sizes are ultimately calculated, or at least speculated. Data is cross-referenced with 3 barrier traps located at the headwaters of the Dungarvon river, the Northwest Miramichi and the Main Southwest Miramichi and a final count is determined. If it is low, it is usually announced with great certainty, reported with great alarm and exploited with great success.

In 2014, the conservation industry prematurely released incomplete figures based upon partial data as of September 15 in an effort to spur the formation of the Ministerial Advisory Committee. This number has been reported as fact ever since, despite a very healthy return of fall fish coming in after September 15. (see details)

Massive knowledge gaps exist within this methodology, the most notable being that during post tropical storm Arthur which hit the Miramichi in early July, 2014, a full two weeks of vital data was lost due to the inability of the traps to be fished. In 2015, a similar washout occurred in late September. Since the traps were not reset, most of our 2015 fall run fish were not counted. This is seldom mentioned in catastrophic reports of low adult returns.

Technology exists which would enable electronic counters to be placed at strategic points in the Miramichi system to provide real time, hard data on adult fish entering the rivers. This would enable a management plan to be devised linking harvest to actual current abundance, with the agility to be adjusted on a monthly basis throughout the season as necessary. Sadly, this technology is on the verge of being implemented by private interests who may have little incentive to make the information publicly available. DFO should be the gatekeepers of this information and should be obligated to make it public on a daily basis.

3) The management regime mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada's Sparrow Decision of 1990.

In this decision, Aboriginal fisheries governed by existing treaties were recognized by the court as a constitutional right. The decision also affirmed DFO's obligation to regulate the fishery and mandated DFO to enter into negotiations with First Nations groups to establish gear and quota limitations based upon current stock status. (Read More)

The courts established a management strategy governing resource allocation with Conservation being the first priority, First Nations second, and all other users third. Because DFO has declared that a "live release fishery" for anglers is still considered an allocation, due to its alleged "incidental mortality", no closure of an aboriginal fishery can occur unless and until all angling activity has stopped, including "live release". It is this clause which is solely responsible for the continued closure of the Saint John river system with all its tributaries which has been in effect since 1997.

Navigating within these parameters has been a challenge for all, but DFO has continually neglected its obligation to negotiate, regulate and compensate the First Nations harvest. A perfect opportunity exists on the Miramichi to introduce a First Nations striped bass commercial fishery tied to a total ban on the gill net harvest of large salmon. The development of a land based salmon aquaculture facility as an alternative to the First Nations MSW harvests could also be pursued.

It is imperative that DFO revisit this mischaracterization of a "live release" fishery as an allocation so that angling can be permitted on some rivers in New Brunswick which have suffered from decades of neglect and apathy, to the detriment of the salmon resource.

4) DFO has essentially created and is committed to maintaining an artificially high striped bass population for the benefit of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Bay of Chaleur fishery.
DFO continues to disregard the fact that this swollen biomass returns to spawn in the Northwest Miramichi estuary every year at exactly the same time our young salmon or smolts are exiting the river to begin their journey to the ocean. As aggressive predators, the damage these fish inflict upon the juvenile salmon production of the Miramichi is irreparable and unsustainable.

5) Jurisdictional conflict between the Federal and Provincial Governments.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans bears full responsibility for the management of anadromous (migratory) species of fish in all Canadian waters, with the exception of the Province of Quebec.

However, the issuing of licenses continues to be a provincial responsibility, inasmuch as New Brunswick's salmon resource is ultimately owned by the people of this province. The New Brunswick Fish and Wildlife act states:

3(1) The property of all wildlife and fish within the Province, while in the state of nature, is hereby declared to be vested in the Crown in right of the Province, and no person shall acquire any right or property therein otherwise than in accordance with this Act and the regulations

Historically, New Brunswick's Department of Natural resources has also played a significant role in salmon management, both by participating and by ensuring that our salmon resource is properly managed by DFO on behalf of the people. However, after years of both saving a buck and passing the buck, they have grown quite comfortable with this convenient deferral of responsibility and presently, there remains little tangible evidence of active provincial involvement in Atlantic salmon issues.

Their unwillingness to intervene and advocate on behalf of the vulnerable rural communities which depend upon this resource have led some to wonder aloud if DNR now stands for Do Not Resuscitate. It is time the province showed some real leadership in this area.