Salmon fishing & fly tying on the Miramichi...

Sunday, 7 May 2017

"DFO, Why can't I fish?" #Fishing4Answers

With the looming 3-week closure of the approximately 10 kilometre stretch of the Northwest Miramichi river "striped bass spawning area," a peaceful and well attended rally was held Saturday, May 6th, in the middle of a downpour at "Parks Landing". The turnout was impressive, considering the less than favorable weather had the entire province, media included, on flood watch.

Among the attendees, speakers and politicians (Provincial MLA Jake Stewart & Federal MP Pat Finnigan) were a large proportion of youth from the Miramichi who are becoming avid anglers under the guidance of their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and families. When children are asking their parents to go fishing instead of wanting to spend their time on hand-held devices, it's obvious that their families and community leaders such as Ashley Hallihan and David Whyte are doing something right.

Pictured: Ashley Hallihan (center) holding mic. #Fishing4Answers

The Situation:

DFO has, on paper, "increased" the yearly recreational angling quota by allowing a retention period to exist for much of the season, including a period where anglers will be able to retain 2 bass per day with a maximum of 2 bass in possession. The reason this is a "paper" increase is that they will be shutting down the Northwest Miramichi spawning area for 3 weeks when bass are concentrated within a defined area. This will make bass fishing inaccessible to people whose only opportunity to participate is from shore. While many anglers, youth included, fish from their own properties or back yards, some of these same people do not have access to boats or other means of transportation to travel outside the exclusion zone. They will effectively lose their only opportunity to participate in this fishery because once the spawn is over, the bass disperse and angling effort increases and favors those with boats. How is this fair? But even beyond what's fair, why is this closure even necessary in the first place?

The Miramichi bass population is no longer in trouble-- as a matter of fact, they are thriving and are in abundance on the upper end of the scale according to DFO numbers. This population has come back from the brink by shutting down the commercial fishery and requiring recreational angling to be restricted to mandatory release. The population did NOT recover by shutting down the river to all forms of recreational angling as DFO now aims to do. As recently as 2009 DFO maintained that recreational angling, in a mandatory release fashion, was not considered a threat to bass or recovery. Why the change in thinking? We certainly know the change isn't a product of science, as DFO, to this point, has presented nothing to indicate that recreational angling, even during the spawn, has a negative effect. No, the change in thinking seems to be rooted elsewhere, certainly in 'opinion' also in 'politics' and most likely in another province.

Is it reasonable for DFO to allow such a population explosion of bass before knowing the carrying capacity of the Miramichi watershed? Is it reasonable for DFO to restrict New Brunswickers from this fishery to potentially increase angling opportunities for others in other provinces?  How does DFO determine when to exercise caution when science is lacking and at what point does opinion trump existing science? Who makes that call? The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans? These questions along with many others were the topic of discussion on Saturday, but the most important one of all is clearly illustrated by the sign this young angler is holding:

"DFO, Why can't I fish?"

Pictured: Youth angler "DFO, Why can't I fish?" #Fishing4Answers

Please call or write to the minister of fisheries and oceans and tell him how you feel about being kicked off your river for three weeks during prime fishing. It is only through sustained pressure that we might see a change to this unnecessary 3 week closure of the Northwest Miramichi river.


Minister of Fisheries & Oceans
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: 613-992-1020
Fax: 613-992-3053

Member of Parliament (Miramichi)
Pat Finnigan
ph: (506) 778-8448

DFO Management
Frederic Butruille
ph: (506)851-7358

Some pics from the rally: