Coalition for Better Atlantic Salmon Management in New Brunswick Formed

The Coalition for Better Atlantic Salmon Management in New Brunswick (CBSM) was formed at a meeting of seven individuals on March 14th, 2017 in Blackville. This meeting was the culmination of a series of developments over the past year that led participants to advance the idea of a coalition as a means to push DFO to act this year, in 2017, on a number of issues.

Participation within the Coalition is open to all those interested in seeing better management of our Atlantic Salmon resource. There is no intent to compete with established NGO’s or draw membership away from those organizations. Rather it is an opportunity to strengthen the call for action and involve more people. Current membership in other conservation groups would not preclude participation in the Coalition and vice versa.

The Coalition will focus on pursuing advancement on three issues with DFO (detailed below) and membership is open to all who support the Coalition’s objectives.

It is intended for the Coalition to be a broad one, covering all parts of the province. In keeping with this intent, it is hoped that all conservation minded individuals will find within the Coalition an opportunity to be part of this initiative. An opportunity to ask questions and get answers, a conduit for information to and from DFO.

Why a coalition? The intent is to accomplish positive action on the part of DFO to implement better management of our salmon stocks in New Brunswick. Once achieved, the group would dissolve. That is the nature of a coalition – a coming together of people to accomplish a specific common purpose, usually within a specified time frame. In this case, the common purpose is better management of our Atlantic Salmon.

The intent is not to build a long-term entity. The Coalition will not engage in extensive fund raising, grant applications, field projects, etc. It will have a steering committee comprised of a few volunteers whose function will be to track membership, speak to the Coalition’s goals and provide feedback to its members. As such the Coalition is not encumbered by organizational structure, executive elections, boards of directors, etc.

The CBSM’s primary purpose will be for information exchange and advocacy. It will 1) raise issues and pursue resolution, 2) ask clear questions and seek to insure proper answers are obtained, and 3) provide feedback to and from its members. Communication will be principally in written format via electronic means (email), with meetings called only as required. Membership dues is a nominal $2, as the call is for support not dollars. The organization will be an unaffiliated group – that is, not linked to provincial umbrella groups.

The basic premise for the formation of the Coalition is that closures are not an option.

DFO’s history is one of letting a stock deteriorate to a point where they can feel justified in closing a fishery and then shutting down all fisheries, both recreational and First Nation, and doing so with a “broad brush” – witness the situation on all of the Saint John system, now closed for 20 years!

It is the contention of the Coalition that both angling and First Nation FSC fisheries can occur while stocks recover, through well managed selective fisheries. Regulations need to be refined and DFO needs to become proactive rather than reactive. Open, clear, and timely communication is required.

The following three issues will be the Coalition’s focus:

1) Keeping anglers on our rivers / fostering local stewardship of the resource

We want to see “river-by-river” management implemented, with individual river management plans in place (river specific goals and regulations) – no more “broad brush”. The refinement of regulations to address specific management needs on individual rivers across the province is what is being called for; not just for the two largest as DFO would propose. It is time DFO managers paid attention to our smaller rivers as well.

We want to see the recognition that some grilse harvest by anglers can occur without endangering a stock, and the acknowledgement that the presence of anglers on the river is critical to insuring local stewardship. Unnecessary, broad, access restrictions only serve to devalue the resource resulting in the loss of the sense of ownership and the willingness to conserve and protect. People will care for what they value – no value, no stewardship.

We want to see an acknowledgement by DFO that C&R angling is a conservation measure and not an allocation. Such a “sea change” in DFO’s perspective would open the door to better management on all our rivers, including those that have been forgotten/ closed, increasing opportunities for participation across the province and fostering local stewardship.

2) Suspending the harvest of large salmon (MSW’s) in provincial waters until such time as stocks recover.

It needs to be recognized by DFO that recreational fisheries and First Nation FSC fisheries are intertwined and must be managed as a whole. They are interdependent, each needs the other to insure stocks recover and remain healthy into the future. Both depend on sufficient egg deposition being achieved, and all salmon conservationists’, including First Nations, recognize the importance of MSW’s in achieving that goal.
DFO must resolve the dilemma it faces between its mandate for “conservation first” and its fiduciary responsibilities with respect to First Nations. The Coalition takes the position that there need not be a conflict between the two fisheries, that it is a matter of allocation, and that DFO can meet both its fiduciary responsibilities and its conservation mandate without resorting to closures. Selective harvest and insuring that MSW’s are given the optimum opportunity to spawn is the key.

Suspending the harvest of MSW’s as an interim measure will entail a change in the annual FSC licenses that DFO issues to First Nations in the province. Appropriate Grilse harvest allocations would continue, but MSW allocations would be suspended until such time as stocks have recovered.

3) Implementing a mitigation plan to substantially reduce the impact of Striped Bass predation on smolts emigrating to sea from the four rivers of the Miramichi system

Research on smolt emigration within the common estuary of the Miramich system by the ASF, has shown that excessive smolt mortality is occurring coincidental with the very high population of spawning Striped Bass present during the emigration period. This Striped Bass population is now far in excess of DFO’s original recovery goal and has been since 2011. A reasonable population objective for Striped Bass must now be set by DFO that would insure smolts are not unduly impacted during their emigration to sea and that subsequent adult returns are not significantly depressed. A mitigation plan from DFO needs to be forthcoming in 2017!

Membership can be obtained by contacting Bonnie Wright via email at or by phone at 506-836-7545. Current Steering Committee members are: Tom Pettigrew (Chair), Bonnie Wright (Secretary), Syd Matchett (treasurer) Jerry Doak, Doug Underhill, Jim Laws, Wayne MacDonald, Brock Curtis, and Tyler Storey. Additions to the committee are welcome.

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