Angler has concerns over Northwest River management

Kevin Curley
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Draw system for licences called into question

The Northwest River in the Terra Nova National Park has long been the topic of discussion for anglers, fisheries managers and biologist.

The once salmon-abundant river dwindled to the point where an electronic salmon fence registered only 152 salmon counted in 1995.

In recent years, though, the salmon made a comeback, thanks to collaboration between local anglers and Parks Canada.

In last seven years at least 1,000 fish have headed back up the Northwest Rive each year to lay their eggs.

As the fish returned, so did those who wanted to put their lines in the water.

The Northwest River Conservation Group has issued 100-250 salmon fishing licences, based on consultation with the Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DFO) and Parks Canada, the last few years allowing for two catches per person.

This year, the angling season is open June 1-July 15 and access to the 150 licences was decided through a draw system. Those wishing for a chance to fish the river could enter their name with a chance to be selected at random.

Chris Newman, president of Friends of Shoal Harbour River (FOSHR), doesn't agree with Parks Canada's management of the river.

He says only a small section of the river runs through Parks Canada land and it's unfair of them to have laid claim to the whole river.

"It's been privatized for quite some time. It's the only river, of my knowledge, that has that privatization feeling. Amongst salmon anglers it's a bad topic," Newman told The Packet.

He says he has tried to get involved with Parks Canada because he disagrees with the management system they have in place.

"I am the president of FOSHR and I tried to get them to express my views on what science I've learned in applying catch and release as opposed to the catch and kill or catch and retain system they have in place," says Newman.

Newman says if Parks Canada were concerned about the resource management of the river, they would do entirely catch and release fishing.

"Because, if you release a fish, then at least it would have a chance at survival instead of killing it," he says.

According to Newman,"A lot of residents in Clarenville do have concerns over the way things have been handled; I've spoken to no less than 50 or 100 people who agree (with me) in the last couple days."

Not all salmon fishers agree with Newman, however.

Monroe Greening, vice-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation, doesn't agree with the catch and release system.

"As far as I'm concerned, catch and release should be banned altogether. It's a destruction of salmon; the mortality rate as they are saying right now is up around 10 per cent. When hook and release is on the go in summer time and there's warm temperatures in the water, there's about 60 per cent mortality rate on salmon," says Greening.

Greening says if they don't stop hook and release then there will be no salmon left.

Greening does agree with Newman regarding Parks Canada's use of the draw system.

"There's a lot of salmon going into the Northwest River, and as far as I'm concerned, the DFO and park should open that river up and let people fish the river," says Greening.

He says they should put a limit of 300 salmon on the river and allow for anyone to fish; when the quota of 300 salmon is caught then the river would be closed for the season.

"If the water temperatures rise they should close the rivers. But I think everyone should have the same opportunity to have a licence to fish that river. They get a permit to fish along with their regular salmon licence and use a red tag," he says.

Greening says if they don't want to give a licence to everybody then they should just close the river altogether.

"If it's not going to be fair to everybody then no one should fish." Karen Wolfrey, acting field unit superintendent for Parks Canada, told The Packet via email that in managing the recreational salmon fishery on the Northwest River within Terra Nova National Park, Parks Canada's primary concern is to ensure the protection of the river's ecological integrity and the health and long-term sustainability of its salmon population.

"Through effective management of the river and the efforts of individuals, volunteers and organizations such as the Northwest River Conservation Group, the salmon population on the Northwest River has increased to the point where a limited recreational salmon fishery has taken place on the river each year since 2003," says Wolfrey.

She added Parks Canada has collaborated with the community to implement measures to steadily improve the health of the Northwest River to sustain the recreational fishery.

"The number of licences approved for the Northwest River fishery in 2014 provides anglers an opportunity to participate in this recreational activity while protecting the resource for future generations," says Wolfrey.

She said that as the success of the salmon fishery on the river has grown, the first-come, first serve method is no longer viable.

She says the draw system used this year allowed for equal access among all anglers. In all, 226 names were submitted and the draw took place on May 21. The names were selected through a random number generator to ensure impartiality.

"Of the 150 licences distributed through the draw system, approximately 41 percent went to anglers from Clarenville, 31 per cent to anglers from the Avalon Peninsula, 17 percent to anglers from communities adjacent to Terra Nova National Park, seven per cent to anglers from the remainder of Newfoundland and Labrador and two per cent to out of province anglers," she says.

A salmon counting fence had been in operation from 1995 to 2011. Wolfrey says that as a result, a long-term data set was established which supports the management measures currently in place.

Newman, though, is not ready to give up on the idea of making changes.

He says he intends to contact the office of the federal environment minister, who is responsible for Parks Canada, to outline his concerns.

Meanwhile, he is holding a meeting next Wednesday, June 18, at St. Jude Hotel in Clarenville to allow people who have concerns about the current structure and management of the Northwest River to express their opinion.

Organizations: Parks Canada, River Conservation Group, DFO The Packet Department of Oceans and Fisheries Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation

Geographic location: Clarenville, Northwest Rive, Shoal Harbour River Terra Nova National Park Newfoundland and Labrador

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