GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – Bishop’s Falls and Grand Falls-Windsor Mayors Bryan King and Barry Manuel are pushing back against catch-and-release.
The two mayors are urging the provincial government to stay away from implementing a catch-and-release only program for the 2018 salmon fishing season.
“The recreational salmon fishery is an important component of our local economy from a tourism standpoint,” said Manuel in a press release issued March 27. “Many people travel to the region to catch and retain an Atlantic salmon, and we see the positive benefits through direct and indirect spending.”
Manuel continued to strongly encourage the federal government to take what he called a balanced approached to salmon fishing retention and release.
The announcement comes after a near three-hour long meeting in March, in which fisherman from central Newfoundland debated the merits of catch-and-release versus retention fishing. It also comes in light of last year’s ban on retention fishing after the mid-season review of the Exploits River.
Gerry Byrne, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, released the provincial government’s recommendation last week, arguing that anglers should be issued two retention tags in June with an in-season review to be completed at the end of that month. If the salmon population is healthy, two more tags would be issued for July. Upon a second review at the end of July, two final tags would be issued, or if further fish removal cannot be supported, angling would close for the season.
“Offering six tags per angler based on the results of two in-season reviews is the best option for the coming season,” Byrne said in the release. “Retaining six tags per angler, with the clear option of a closure if low salmon returns warrant, further helps to ensure salmon stocks are protected, which must always remain our highest priority.”
Manuel and King are among those hoping for the highest number of tags possible.
“In 2015 the Town of Bishop’s Falls commissioned a study of the Exploits River, and the statistics reveal that 41 per cent of NL residents and 21 per cent of Canadian non-resident anglers are more likely to retain a salmon,” said King in the press release. “Clearly, taking this option away will decrease the number of tourists coming to our communities.”
King added that as municipal governments, Bishop’s Falls and Grand Falls-Windsor are currently looking at ways to develop the Exploits River to promote further tourism opportunities, and that the federal government eliminating salmon retention would compromise those efforts.
While the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources made their recommendations, the federal government has final authority over the salmon plan.
The mayors agree that conservation measures must be implemented to ensure the sustainability of the salmon population given the decreased numbers in recent years.
“We encourage the continuation or establishment of a robust research and education program to support those efforts,” the release read. “However, to go from a retention of six fish over the season to strictly catch-and-release is an extreme option that should be avoided.”
The mayors concluded by saying the federal government must take a balanced approach that ensures some retention is preserved.