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Member News - Coalition News #11

November 19th 2018

To all CBSM members:
  • DFO denies permit for CAST (Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow) adult supplementation program to proceed.
  • NBRSFMT (N.B. Rec. Salmon Fishery Mgmt. Transformation) project fades from sight.
  • DFO continues "head in the sand" approach to the Striped Bass situation.
  • Still no response from DFO on our call for a suspension of large salmon harvests in First Nation FSC fisheries.
  • PA (Precautionary Approach) test case initiative fails to make progress.
  • CBSM will not be complicit in DFO mismanagement.

Details:

- DFO denies permit for CAST. For the 2nd year in a row DFO has denied a permit for CAST to release the adult salmon they raised for the purpose of supplementing egg deposition in the Northwest and Little Southwest Miramichi rivers. This after having authorized the collection of wild smolt for that very purpose and after the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars for hatchery upgrading. Regardless of whether one agrees, or disagrees, with the program and the corporate enterprise involvement this is no way to operate and cannot be tolerated. Either co-operate with the effort or shut it down; but to authorize the removal of wild smolt, fund the work of raising them to adults, and then deny their use is ridiculous. The program may be seen as a Band-Aid since it is not a long-term solution and certainly not a replacement for sound management but it is a Band- Aid that we could use at the moment with the stocks of these two rivers at a critically low level. To date we have had 16,500 smolt removed from the wild, 3.1 million taxpayer dollars provided to CAST and no public benefit realized. This October the program had upwards of 1,000 mature fish available and while the fall back was to strip and hold the eggs at the hatchery, the future of the project is unknown. A DFO debacle!

- NBRSMT project fades from sight. The last "engagement session" with NGO's on this initiative was held on May 29th and there has been nothing forthcoming from either the "working group", or the oversight "task force", since that time. The meeting on the 29th of May was essentially a briefing session on a progress report that the working group had earlier submitted to the task force. It appears that this meeting was a pivotal one in that two major developments occurred. First, two statements within the report were identified, by ourselves and others, as being problematic. One read that "Only after allocations for First Nation FSC fisheries will there be opportunities for the recreational salmon fishery." and the other that "The opportunity for retention is predicated on an identified available harvest from the PA process once First Nation access has been satisfied." The message clearly conveyed to the Chair of the working group was that these statements could not stand as they suggest a major policy shift from what the situation has been over the past 25 years whereby angling fisheries, with a limited grilse harvest component, coexisted with First Nation FSC fisheries. The second development was an acknowledgement from the provincial representative at the meeting that the province was not prepared to consider the issuing of a special, Miramichi system only, salmon angling license. Given that the project's terms of reference were strictly on "transforming" the recreational angling regime for the four rivers of the Miramichi system, the simple "no" answer threw the outcome of the whole project into doubt. For the record it must be noted that on a number of earlier occasions the point had been raised that the project should have considered angling across the province as a whole. The watershed restriction and the policy implications raised by the progress report may well have sent DFO back to the drawing board.

- DFO continues "head in the sand" approach to the Striped Bass situation. Despite all that has happened on this front in 2018, DFO still has not acknowledged the serious impact Striped Bass are having on smolt survival within the estuarial waters of the Miramichi system and no one has been able to have a conversation with them on objectives or timelines. The setting of an upper stock reference point (population objective) for Striped Bass that was promised in April has been postponed to 2019 - e-mail from the Regional Director for Science rec'd April 30th siting CSAS (Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat) scheduling requirements, and so the two-step dance continues. The ASF data on smolt survival is compelling, the MSA has publicly called the situation a "crisis", the NBSC has written the new DFO minister urging him to take action, and yet it appears that all these entreaties have fallen on deaf ears. Our own correspondence on the subject, dating back to Feb. 9 th of this year, similarly remains unanswered. Everyone is calling for some measure of mitigation to reduce the impact, but DFO doesn't see it. Maybe their own low numbers for Grilse captures at their monitoring traps this past season will finally bring the message home. The Grilse numbers in 2018 were less than 50% of those from earlier years (2010 to 2014 average).

- No response to the CBSM call for a suspension of large salmon harvests in FSC fisheries. As with our Feb. 9 th letter on the Striped bass situation, our letter of Feb. 12th which asked DFO for their perspective on MSW harvests and requested a response to our call for the suspension of the FSC large salmon allocations until stocks recover has never been replied to. This despite reiterating our request on the March 5th conference call, a reminder forwarded on April 30th, another on June 11th and the last just recently on Sept. 26th. Surely one can expect a reply to correspondence from a government agency within a period of 9 months, but no, not in this case. Evidently the subject is one that DFO is loath to talk about.

- PA test case initiative fails to make progress. On Oct. 25th, DFO finally held a consultation meeting with regard to the setting of an upper stock reference point and the decision rules which would be associated with each of the three stock level categories. This was the meeting that they had originally announced would be held last January; a 10-month delay. Unfortunately, no progress was made at the meeting as no decisions were taken and DFO declined to put forward any specific recommendations. We raised the point that people need to understand what the end game is, what will come out of the exercise, when and how the PA management plan will be implemented and at what scale. When pressed about timelines, the DFO Chair of the meeting stated that he hoped to have a framework in place at this time next year. Bottom line; nothing can be expected from the test case initiative with respect to advancing the realization of river-by-river management in 2019.

- CBSM will not be complicit in DFO mismanagement. Enough is enough! After much consideration, and exhaustive effort in trying to obtain information, I have come to the conclusion that nothing is to be gained from any further dealings with DFO Gulf-Region. The writing is on the wall - 2019 will be yet another year of status quo. DFO has clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of managing our salmon stocks. So how did we reach this point? Obviously, the forgoing news items explain a lot, but beyond that would be the series of e-mails and telephone conversations that occurred this past summer between myself and a senior Ottawa staff member of DFO. They came about after the cabinet shuffle that saw Dominic LeBlanc replaced by Jonathan Willkinson as the Minister for Fisheries and Oceans. In an effort to keep things moving ahead, and to understand just where DFO stood on the various issues, a simple request was made to have a conversation on the subject of timelines and objectives. From the back and forth dialogue that ensued it became clear that DFO doesn't have a set of coherent objectives for the management of New Brunswick's Atlantic Salmon and timelines are not a consideration for them. Suffice it to say that there isn't a single solitary soul within the organization that can articulate what it is that DFO is trying to accomplish with regard to salmon management in New Brunswick, how they intend to get there, and what the timelines are. Everything is an exercise, a process, a review, and timelines are non-existent.

The move to river-by-river management is only rhetoric within DFO. There isn't one person that can be identified has having been tasked with overseeing its implementation. So, with no clear view of where they want to go, how to get there, or even when, the status quo becomes the default option. They seem to think that the old refrain of "we're working on it" is all the answer the public needs. Well, no longer! It's time to tell DFO to "take a hike". We have made the point that timelines cannot be infinite. They must be set by the management needs of the resource, not by the glacial pace of DFO's internal processes. The current state of many of our salmon stocks is such that time is a luxury we no longer have. Action has to be taken, issues must be dealt with. A withdrawal of participation in perfunctory meetings will send the message - "DFO has lost the confidence of the angling community and we will not be complicit in their continuing mismanagement."

It is the consensus of the Steering Committee that this step be taken, and in the near term we will be conveying that message to DFO. Any, and all, comment on this stance from any CBSM member is welcome.



Lastly, the following information has recently been posted to our web site under the data tab. The ASF summary graphic on smolt survival, the 2018 salmon angling license sales (updated charts), the data base of studies etc., from which DFO has set its hook and release mortality factors for the Miramichi system and the Restigouche River, and a graphic of the stock status for the SW and NW Miramichi river systems from the Oct. 25 th meeting.

Tom Pettigrew

Steering Committee Chair - CBSM
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