The Wulff Den

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.

Contacts:


Minister of Fisheries & Oceans
dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: 613-992-1020
Fax: 613-992-3053

Member of Parliament (Miramichi)
Pat Finnigan
pat.finnigan@parl.gc.ca
ph: (506) 778-8448

DFO Management
Frederic Butruille
frederic.butruille@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
ph: (506)851-7358


Some pics from the rally:













Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tired of being ignored by DFO? Meet on May 6th and "COME FISHING FOR ANSWERS"!


Thursday, 13 April 2017

A follow up letter from Ashley Hallihan to DFO & the Minister. (Is Quebec pulling the strings?)

Here is a follow up letter from Ashley Hallihan which I am posting with his permission. His efforts are receiving little response and it's time for others to kick it into high gear with calling and writing DFO, the Minister, local MP's, City Council, media and anyone else who will listen to what is going on in the Miramichi river with the dangerously overabundant striped bass population. It's becoming clear there is much more at play than science and responsible management - is it Quebec and the striped bass recovery initiative for the St. Lawrence estuary? It's sure looking that way...


Ashley's Intro and Letter begin here:


"WHY DO WE NEED A 3 WEEK RIVER CLOSURE TO FURTHER PROTECT THE SOUTHERN GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE STRIPED BASS THAT IS CLEARLY HAVING SUCCESS IN THE MIRAMICHI RIVER?

Here is another email I have sent to 3 DFO biologists, a biologist from COSEWIC, our Miramichi MP as well as the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Only reply back was from a DFO biologist who said 'we understand your frustrations' with plans for us to meet to 'exchange ideas' sometime next week in Miramichi. After reading this email, I encourage that if you too are frustrated, then express your concerns to the following people:
Minister of Fisheries & Oceans
Dominic LeBlanc
dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca
Miramichi Member of Parliment
Pat Finnigan
pat.finnigan@parl.gc.ca
DFO Management
Frederic Butruille
frederic.butruille@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

CHANGE NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE FOR THE MIRAMICHI!

Here is the email...
The frustrating thing about this river closure announcement is the lack of facts to support such a regulatory measure and lack of discussion amongst all stakeholders. I believe in 2012(?) rumours of a possible river closure to the 'staging area' for Striped Bass emerged at a time when only hook and release was permitted throughout the angling season. Not quite sure what changed the decision makers minds (public outcry, lack of science, discussion with stakeholders, political power) but the management strategies that were announced were a complete 180 of the proposed rumours. We went from hook and release to no river closure with retention periods. 
Here we are once again in this conversation about an announced river closure to the 'spawning area'. An announcement with many unknowns and at a time when science is telling the public that the population is 10 times over the target recovery plan. Also at a time when this Striped Bass population continues to grow rapidly each successive year without any previous protections to a spawning/staging area. I trust that you understand the public's frustrations as we are left with too many unknowns...
- dates of closure?
- boundary limits?
- one year plan...what happens next year: longer closure period? extended boundaries to protect the staging area? protection of other spawning areas since they are spawning on the Southwest Miramichi?
All of this confusion for what goal? I am still asking the same question as I did last year at the MSA Science day in Boiestown: What is the maximum population target for this population and is this population beyond the carrying capacity of the Miramichi ecosystem? At the time DFO Science could not answer that question as it was a DFO Management decision. This year I sent my letter of concern to your colleague Frederic Brutruille and over a phone conversation (as in the beginning of my search for answers email discussions were not entertained) and he told me he could not answer that question as it was a DFO Science decision. There lies the frustration I am having in a search that appears to be going nowhere with regards to clearly answering the 5 questions posed in my letter.
I am quite aware of the Warm Water Protocal for our river...a variation order that is enacted by the collection of temperature data, has a defined and measurable standard for those who enforce this management tool. I am assuming that this protocol was developed through discussion with many stakeholders involved and followed the proper regulatory process as directed by the Fisheries Act. I also am aware that this was done for an Atlantic Salmon population that is also not listed with SARA. I fully support this regulatory measure that is serving to protect an Atlantic Salmon population that science is showing is in trouble with decreasing populations.
I must admit I spent some time reading DFO documents and other websites like this one:
https://ecojustice.ca/…/Ecojustice-Fisheries-Act-Feb-2013.p…
I am still unsure why this protection measure is needed for a population that is having success without any previous closures and increased retention periods throughout the recovery plan. I did find some some information on a recovery plan outside of the Miramichi River (St. Lawrence Population) where a 10 year plan was announced in this report and implemented in 2008:
http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/…/Csas/s…/2006/SAR-AS2006_053_E.pdf
Upon reading this 2006 document, I find it amusing to reflect upon the statement 'under the present mortality conditions, there is a low probability of exceeding the recovery limit by 2015'.
Times have certainly change for the Miramichi ecosystem and 2006 predictions did not turn out as expected?
I am not a fan of hidden agendas and more information needs to be discussed to publicly and with other stakeholders about the recovery program for the St. Lawrence Striped Bass Population that is taking Striped Bass from the Miramichi River as described in this report:
http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/…/doc22…/ind_e.cfm
It would be awesome to have a similar recovery plan for Atlantic Salmon on the Northwest Miramichi using Atlantic Salmon that populate Rivers in Quebec...a province that has a successful Atlantic Salmon population since they have regulations that permit harvesting a MSW Salmon.
Just a thought...who knows in 10 years they may be returning the favour for our Atlantic Salmon populations for the Miramichi.
I am just a concerned resident of Miramichi who is passionate about the River I call home. A balanced ecosystem is a must for all species and we as anglers/managers have an obligation to be stewards of our ecosystem. I never want to see the Miramichi Striped Bass populations get to a point that we saw in the late 1990's as I truly enjoy sharing this recreation with my family and the youth of my community. However, without the necessary regulations in place to reduce this population, I am worried that other species may be a distant memory in short time frame.
Sincerely,
Ashley Hallihan"



Please contact the following people to let them know how you feel about the 2017 striped bass regulations:

DFO Management
Frederic Butruille
frederic.butruille@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
ph: (506)851-7358

Minister of Fisheries & Oceans
Dominic LeBlanc
dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca
ph: (506)533-5700

Member of Parliament (Miramichi)
Pat Finnigan
pat.finnigan@parl.gc.ca
ph: (506) 778-8448



Monday, 10 April 2017

A letter from Ashley Hallihan to DFO and the Minister, in search of answers on the 2017 striped bass regulations.

The following letter is being posted here with permission from Ashley Hallihan.

This is THE best letter I have read on this topic and should demand answers from DFO and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.



"IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS TO 5 QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CURRENT POPULATION OF STRIPED BASS ON THE MIRAMICHI...here is the letter I have sent to 3 DFO biologists, COSEWIC, our Miramichi MP as well as the Minister of Fisheries...yet to get any definite answers.

I am writing today to express my disappointment with the regulations announced Friday, March 31st for managing the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Striped Bass Population. I am writing from the perspective of a Miramichi Striped Bass angler, NB Guide, Atlantic Salmon Conservationist, Educator in Environmental Science and most importantly...a steward and resident of the Miramichi River. I have attended most of the public meetings (many of which DFO decided not to attend), completed surveys with my thoughts/opinions, follow a number of groups on social media and belong to a variety of conservation groups. I am hoping that you can give some insight into the following...
Current numbers show an increase in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Striped Bass population with the 2016 season estimated at 318,000 spawners (conservative estimate with lots of uncertainty - could be up to 629,000). The proposed recovery target was 31,200 spawners which means we are currently 10 times over this target and I feel we are beyond the carrying capacity of this population. We are seeing many negative effects in the Miramichi River system...bass migration into areas that never had striped bass, spawning action outside of the Northwest Miramichi River, disease being found on the bass and more importantly a decrease in other species (salmon, trout, gaspereau, smelt).
Why do we need to announce further protections to a species that is clearly having success in the Miramichi River?
Myself along with many other anglers were pleased with the longer retention period (April 15th - October 31st). It must be noted that these additional days also come with a subtraction of 3 weeks during a period where retention success was high in that section of the Miramichi River. Last year we had the season open from September 2nd - October 31st, which was a much appreciated announcement. This year we have April 15th - April 30th yet this time period is variable since river ice may still be in and fishing conditions are unfavorable due to low water temperatures. Since bass are dependent on water temperature for migration, the actual run of bass may not even fall in this retention period. The addition of allowing 2 bass a day during June 15th - August 31st will likely have no impact on the population for anglers on the Miramichi River as most of the population have migrated out of the Miramichi River. DFO released a document in March 2017 to support this claim as their science showed that the highest bycatch was early in the 2016 season and were at low levels by mid June for the Miramichi River. In the same report they state that on October 17 there was an conservative estimate of 6000 bass in the Millerton trapnet.
Is this science not alarming for a population that traditionally did not over winter or migrate to the Southwest Miramichi in the Fall?
A population that is 10 times above the targeted spawning requirements does not need any further protection this season. Retention limits of one bass per day with one in your possession requires one to eat a bass before they can retain another. There is no change in the size slot (narrow retention range), which is designed to protect the mature spawners and allow the population to continue to grow.
Why is it that other river systems in New Brunswick have an upper limit of 150 cm? The Bay of Fundy striped bass population has a higher COSEWIC status (endangered) than the Southern St. Lawrence population (special concern).
Closing the Northwest Miramichi for 3 weeks (no date announced as the 'spawn' is not predictable since it is water temperature dependent) will further allow the species to grow while having a negative impact economically on an area that has suffered enough in terms of economic development. There was no consultation on this particular decision whether it be from other stakeholders or the public. The city of Miramichi has the Striper Cup planned for the end of May (likely during this closure) where people are making plans to participate.
Unfortunately, the majority of the bass population will be in an area closed to angling whether it be from boat or shore. I agree that we need to practice common sense when boating around the spawning grounds but to close the river for 3 weeks is by far an extreme measure to further protect this species. There are other measures that could have been implemented if discussion on this regulation was made with other stakeholders rather than behind closed doors.
Why was there a lack of communication on this particular regulation announcement and why did it take until the end of March to release a report on data that was obtain in 2016?
The Miramichi River system put New Brunswick on the map when it came to pursuing the king of sport fish - the Atlantic Salmon. It has a long history of tradition and has been a huge source of revenue for our province and the Miramichi area for many years. The sad reality is that Atlantic Salmon have so many obstacles in the journey from river to sea and back. One may argue that Striped Bass have co-existed with the Atlantic Salmon in the Miramichi River but not against the huge population of striped bass we have today. There are many obstacles we can control and better management of the Striped Bass is one of them. This is not the only reason for the decline of Atlantic Salmon but it is certainly not helping this population.
I appreciate your time in reading this email and look forward to your response on the questions I have posed in this letter. I am encouraging every angler to start fishing Striped Bass on April 15th and make sure you take the entire family to the river. In today’s society we need to get our youth back on the water, have families do activities together while celebrating this recreation and enjoy harvesting a species when there is an overabundance. I hope that changes will come sooner rather than later as there can be a balance in the ecosystem amongst all species.
Sincerely,
Ashley Hallihan"

Please contact the following people to let them know how you feel about the 2017 striped bass regulations:

DFO Management
Frederic Butruille
frederic.butruille@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
ph: (506)851-7358

Minister of Fisheries & Oceans
Dominic LeBlanc
dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca
ph: (506)533-5700

Member of Parliament (Miramichi)
Pat Finnigan
pat.finnigan@parl.gc.ca
ph: (506) 778-8448


Sunday, 9 April 2017

A message from David Whyte on DFO's unnecessary 3-week striped bass closure on the Northwest.

I received this message from David Whyte of the FB group, New Brunswick Recreational Anglers (Miramichi River Systems) on the upcoming 3-week striped bass closure on the Northwest. David  lays out the history behind this closure and goes on to explain why it is unnecessary and not based in science but rather (and sadly) politics. In implementing this closure, DFO is getting out of their responsibility of actually managing the fishery while ignoring all inquiries by all groups to justify their position. Like I said before -- DFO, SHOW ME THE SCIENCE!

Here's David's message, please share and talk about this with other anglers, and take some time to call or write DFO and the Minister.

"DFO are trying to implement a closure on a portion of the Northwest Miramichi River for 2017. They had tried this back in 2012 without success so now they are suggesting a smaller portion of the spawning grounds for striped bass to be closed for certain amount of time without scientific information to support this cause.  Why close an area down when numbers of striped bass have rebounded back from a mere 2000 spawners, in 1999, to in excess of 318000 currently WITHOUT ANY CLOSURE?
  DFO will avoid answering all of our questions.
  This is an all to familiar action from any government authority, which is not the intended duty for that specific position, whatever it may be.
  CLOSURE OF A SPAWNING GROUND MEANS NO ACCESS FOR ANYONE! PERIOD!
MAKE IT CLEAR! There cannot  be a any exceptions!
  Next year, maybe sooner, DFO intentions may decide to extend boundaries as they have done in the past.
 This can be done with ease once ANY closure is implemented within the system on a species or its habitat.
  CLOSURE IS DFO'S EASIEST SCAPEGOAT ! ! ! !

   THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL TO                            UNDERSTAND.
  This choice allows them to close the door on a wrongful decision made by a prior Minister and his management staff. It allows them to  breech contracts and bypass all consultation processes back in 2012. It allows DFO  NOT TO BE ACCOUNTABLE for their actions!
Therefore CLOSURE IS   UNACCEPTABLE!
The best management for the fishery IS APPROPRIATE AND UNBIASED MANAGEMENT! PERIOD!
  Community pride and unity. Pride and passion for  a heritage and what a community  may stand to gain OR lose. This alone  should always triumph over politics, as it is the true sense of Democracy that our forefathers had put into place for fairness and equality where majority rule.
  GREED, has turned this true form of democracy  into a game, to where the APPOINTED persons in key positions try forming new ways to bend the rules to their advantage  for certain agendas or gains. To have precedence set so that bent rule then becomes law.
Who posed the proposal of river closure in the first place. Nobody here!
DFO officials have tried using the online surveys as another way to enforce their decision where he claims 54% were in favor of some type of protection of the habitat. This is without being consulted on accurate accounts, measures or science.    Clearly DFO's mind is set on closure of  any type so they can get their foot in the door and eventually do what they had set out to do some time ago. It NEVER ends!
MAKE IT KNOWN THAT there is a far better  management plan that includes MORE RETENTION FOR THE WHOLE SOUTHERN GULF REGION and more importantly, NO CLOSURE! !
  A few of us suspect that DFO  tactics are going to include an increase in the retention amounts to sweeten the pot, they have already given us the whole season to retain (as it always should have been) BUT it will come at the cost of closure. WHICH, LEFT UNADVISED,  the majority will jump all over immediately without giving it a second thought as to the big picture. We can control the outcome by NOT  being pushed, coerced or dictated to but in fact giving DFO a better management  offer. There are MANY other management efforts that can be implemented  without closure.
RIVER CLOSURE IS MANAGEMENT FAILURE!
  It has to be made known BEFORE all of this takes place. BEFORE majority rule on matters that really do not affect them at all and DFO make the citizens of Miramichi  look greedy and unreasonable.
  AVOIDING ACCOUNTABILITY  is and always has been their tactic. They spend more effort on trying to get out of something or cover it up than sucking it up and moving forward to better manage and properly consult with ALL stakeholders. Basically, they spend good taxpayers money to do less than their job!
David Whyte"

A late Northwest Miramichi bass from October 2016


 A dead bass I found floating at Salmon Brook pool on the Cains river, summer of 2016
(you know there are too many when...)



One of the best ways to enjoy striped bass:


How to fillet a striped bass:


Please contact the following people to let them know how you feel about the 2017 striped bass regulations:

DFO Management
Frederic Butruille
frederic.butruille@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
ph: (506)851-7358

Minister of Fisheries & Oceans
Dominic LeBlanc
dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca
ph: (506)533-5700

Member of Parliament (Miramichi)
Pat Finnigan
pat.finnigan@parl.gc.ca
ph: (506) 778-8448