Salmon fishing & fly tying on the Miramichi...

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 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.
Ashley Hallihan"

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

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

Minister of Fisheries & Oceans
Dominic LeBlanc
ph: (506)533-5700

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