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Member News - Coalition News #12

March 20th,2019

Coalition news # 12

To all CBSM members:
  • CBSM to stand down.
  • DFO Gulf office advised re: our position on perfunctory meetings, confidence, and complicity.
  • CBSM seeks a path forward via the political route.
  • NGO (non-government organization) expectations for 2019 are limited.

Details:

- CBSM to stand down. After pursuing its goals through the course of two years, the Coalition for the Better Management of Atlantic Salmon in New Brunswick (CBSM) will disband effective March 31st 2019.

Over the last number of weeks, the Steering Committee has debated the merits of continuing the effort into a third year, versus standing down on the basis of what is likely to be accomplished. Ultimately the Committee reached the consensus view that there is no point in "flogging a dead horse" and on the Atlantic Salmon file in New Brunswick the dead horse analogy can most definitely be applied to DFO.

DFO has proven itself to be nothing more than a dead weight suppressing the implementation of any postive move forward towards sound management. With no objectives, no timelines, and a "do nothing" mind set; dealing with DFO is simply a waste of time. The entity that is DFO is incapable even of being able to describe what it is they are trying to accomplish with regard to Atlantic Salmon management in New Brunswick.

In a January conversation with personnel from Minister Wilkinson’s office, the subject of goals and objectives was discussed, and in reference to the statement in our Newsletter # 11 of Nov. 19th 2018 where we raised the point of "not a single solitary soul ….."; the senior advisor to the Minister admitted that the understanding of just what it is DFO is trying to accomplish was "a bit foggy". A bit foggy! how , after decades of saying " we’re working on it", could it be the least bit foggy, but there it is - confirmation that DFO truly doesn’t know where it wants to go or how to get there.

We have made our points and they are well known.  River-by-river management is the goal, but despite Minister Leblanc identifying it as such in 2016, DFO is no closer to delivering on it now than they were then, and they have essentially ignored the call for implementation of river specific regulations. As regards our second focus area, that of the need to suspend the harvest of large salmon within FSC fisheries until such time as stocks recover, this is something DFO simply refuses to discuss even as their own data and their plodding PA (precautionary approach) exercise highlights this measure as the most effective means of increasing egg deposition. On the Striped Bass question, which was the third issue we wanted to see addressed, there is nothing more to say — a classic case of Nero (DFO) fiddling (dithering) while Rome (the Miramichi) burned.

One overarching principal that we continued to stress through out our tenure was that of stewardship. It was this aspect of management that underpinned our position that closures were not an option. People will care for what they value, and as such keeping anglers on our rivers was always paramount in our discussions with, and submissions, to DFO. This point however, often seemed lost on DFO, and they seemed to feel they had no need to build or maintain public support for salmon conservation. We had hoped to be a conduit for information from DFO to our membership and had asked, on a number of occasions, for DFO to provide their perspective on specific issues such that people could understand what lay behind a particular initiative or decision and how it would benefit the resource or impact their fishery. Those appeals went unfulfilled. DFO apparently feels that public outreach is not important, or somehow, is even below them. "We are the authority" is often the theme heard and we have no need to explain our actions or lack thereof. Even the common courtesy of responding to a letter of inquiry is frequently and shamefully passed over by DFO. DFO has to understand that public support is essential to any success in management and that they must earn that support. With our dissolution, DFO loses yet another opportunity to reach out and build support with a significant proportion of the salmon conservation community. It must be noted that support for, and subsequent compliance with, management regulations is best build through forthright public engagement; it cannot be accomplished through obfuscation.

The Coalition was never intended to be a long-term entity. Our goal was to give DFO a push, to let them know, unequivocally, that more was expected of them, that the time for rhetoric was past, and further evasion was unacceptable. On those points we have been heard, and we have made gains in public awareness. Our recent message to DFO that things must change has resonated with many. Most other salmon advocacy organizations are in agreement that DFO does not have the broad confidence of salmon conservationists but they are not yet at the point of insistence, as organizational continuity and function is a consideration. Patience is a virtue, but it has its limits, and DFO must know that it is now pushing those limits to the extreme. So, the CBSM will, through its decision to disband, leave DFO with the message that it can no longer presume that it will be "business as usual". We are saying clearly, for the many who want it said, that "enough is enough / things have to change". We do not support DFO’s foot-dragging on the need for substantial and positive change and we will not be complicit in their continuing mismanagement nor afford them any semblance of condoning the status quo.


- DFO Gulf office advised re: our position on perfunctory meetings, confidence, and complicity. As per the stance highlighted in our last newsletter (coalition news # 11 Nov. 19/18), the CBSM did follow through on relaying that "take a hike" message. Below is the text from our notice sent January 8th 2019 and copied to all 29 recipients of DFO’s request for attendance confirmation.

This e-mail is in response to your request for confirmation of attendance at the Advisory Meeting for the Eastern New Brunswick Coastal and Inland Recreational Fisheries, scheduled for January 17th /19.

Please be advised that the CBSM (Coalition for Better Atlantic Salmon Management in New Brunswick) will not be attending.

As to our reason; simply put, it has become very apparent that your office does not intend to do anything with regard to improving the management of our salmon stocks in 2019.   Another year of status quo is not supported and without any intention to implement positive change, on the part of DFO, there is no point in participating in a perfunctory meeting.

By declining to attend, our membership is sending this clear message — "DFO-Gulf has lost the confidence of the angling community in New Brunswick and we (the CBSM) will not be complicit in their continuing mismanagement". We have made the point that timelines cannot be infinite, and while your office may check off the "advisory meeting held" box on Jan. 17th; it will not be able to do so under any pretense of support.

You will note that I have copied all those to whom your confirmation request was sent, such that they will be aware of our decision and the reasons for it.

Subsequent to that notice being circulated we received some positive feedback for having "stood up and been counted". The notice also prompted some press coverage which served to underscore our point that "enough is enough".


- CBSM seeks a path forward via the political route. On Dec. 17th, a meeting was held with MP Pat Finnigan where we reviewed the content of our Nov. newsletter and discussed the current situation. Subsequent to that meeting MP Finnigan was provided with a number of CBSM documents relative to the issues discussed, and the covering e-mail included the following statement:

The principal point of our meeting was to advise that, from where we stand, DFO has lost the confidence of salmon anglers and conservations across the province.  It is up to the overseers of that department, our elected representatives, to step forward and insure that confidence is restored, by insisting that positive actions be taken in 2019, issues dealt with, and sound management accomplished.

This message, of the need for DFO’s overseers to step in, was also relayed to the Minister’s office. In mid-January we supplied the Minister a copy of our Nov. newsletter and were advised that it made it into his hands, so he too is cognizant of the loss of confidence issue. Since that time, we have had some back and forth correspondence, plus a conference call, with senior ministerial staff on the primary issues that we sought to have addressed as well as the need to see some positive change in 2019.

What eventually comes from this outreach remains to be seen; but I would draw your attention to one consideration that we have made a particular point of raising with both MP Finnigan and staff from the Minister’s office - the subject of "who owns the fish". It is a question that we have raised privately with DFO personnel at various times, and if there is one question that most befuddles DFO, it is this one. It’s a simple question, but it goes to the heart of DFO’s apparent inability to move forward. The answer is that ownership, by legislation, is vested in the "crown" and as such it is the people of the province of New Brunswick who own the resource. DFO has the responsibility for management, and that also, is by way of legislation, but acknowledging ownership means acknowledging who you are managing the resource for and who you are accountable to. The subject also has obvious political implications. A debate on rights and ownership can only be counterproductive, but those in elected office need to not only be cognizant of the fact, but take steps to ensure that management of the resource does not suffer as a result. That is their responsibility as overseers, and it is one on which they will be judged.


- NGO expectations for 2019 are limited. Of late, the CBSM has been in contact with principals from all of the provincial salmon advocacy organizations as well as a number of localized individual groups. We were looking to see what consensus there might be out there on salmon management in 2019.

To each we posed two questions — 1) what are you looking for from DFO in 2019? and 2) what are you expecting? Two points stood out from these conversations. The first, is that beyond things like continued cooperation and funding support for projects, or a minor specific regulation change, salmon conservation organizations are looking for very little in 2019. One stated that they were looking for a concrete action plan; fully cognizant of the fact that such was unlikely. Similarly, people expressed hopes that this, or that, issue might be resolved, but there was an air of resignation to the replies.

The second notable point from the conversations was with regard to expectations; the answer given was almost universal — we are expecting nothing! To expect nothing, is very much a sad commentary on where things stand and of people’s hopes for the future.

A side note here is that the Province, via an e-mail to Minister Holland, was also asked the question of what it was looking for from DFO in 2019. The answer received was essentially that the province is not looking for anything; and this from the government that represents the owners of the resource. This official ambivalence on the part of the province has long puzzled those interested in the future of the salmon angling fishery as it is the province that stands to lose the most from DFO’s mismanagement.


Lastly, as mentioned in the e-mail notice of dissolution that you received, our website will remain up for the time being and the following items have recently been posted.

  • ASF / DFO published paper on smolt survival
  • FSC allocations for the Gulf region
  • CBSM Jan. 4th comment on the PA (DFO request for feedback)
  • Hand out materials provided by DFO in advance of the Jan. 17th meeting

The concluding meeting of the Steering Committee was held on March 12th 2019. A financial statement for year two has been prepared and is available to members upon request.


Tom Pettigrew

Former Steering Committee Chair - CBSM