The wild Atlantic salmon is a significant cultural and economic species for Eastern Canada and more specifically, the Miramichi Region. Salmon fishing supports a long-standing and popular recreational fishery, which has very important economic spin-offs. Salmon fishing also supports a vital food source for many Indigenous communities and is important for social and ceremonial activities.
The issue of the salmon population and its declining numbers in recent years is of great concern to us all. I believe we all need to work collaboratively to find a solution that will not just protect this valued resource, but will also secure the long term sustainability of the wild Atlantic salmon in the Miramichi watershed.
I continue to have discussions with stakeholders involved in this complex and complicated process including members of the CAST Program, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, First Nation Chiefs, representatives with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minster of Fisheries of Oceans, the Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, with Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Incorporated, with members of the North Shore MicMac Council, and with owners/operators of fishing camps all along the Miramichi River system. Though there certainly are differences of opinion on how we eventually get there, everybody that I’ve been speaking with all agree on one single common goal: to protect the wild Atlantic Salmon and to secure their future in the Miramichi River System.
The Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow (CAST) has proposed a large-scale Smolt-to-Adult Supplementation (SAS) project as a means to increase Atlantic salmon populations in the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. While this project has received much support, some stakeholders and indigenous communities have highlighted some potential areas for concern. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a responsibility to consider both the benefits of this type of scientific experiment along with the risks to wild Atlantic salmon populations and level of support from partners, including indigenous communities who access these salmon populations for food. I, as well as DFO, remain supportive of CAST’s goals to assist in the recovery of Atlantic salmon population, and will continue to collaborate with CAST on their other research projects.
We are also taking other concrete steps in Salmon recovery. A catch and release policy in 2016 was a key action in efforts to conserve salmon in New Brunswick and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 2018, access to harvest striped bass was increased with anglers permitted to retain three fish as opposed to two and the Aboriginal commercial fishery was allowed to harvest up to 50,000 fish as a pilot commercial fishery. First Nations also have food and ceremonial access to striped bass.
I absolutely support the goals and preferred outcomes of CAST. In 2017, DFO provided CAST with $1.5 million over four years to support other aspects of the program, such as thermal imaging and sonar population studies, which could provide useful information on the behaviour of salmon.
I remain committed to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples through a renewed relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. We have received feedback from Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Incorporated, and it is important that MTI is respectfully engaged and consulted on decisions that impact them.
I believe there is more work to be done and that there is more than one path forward to solving these important issues. I, as your Member of Parliament, am committed to collaboration with ALL stakeholders involved. I will continue to encourage dialogue and communication between all those involved in this incredibly complex and important file, including Minister Wilkinson, so that we can come to an agreement on the best way forward on what matters to us all: protecting the wild Atlantic salmon now and for years to come.
Pat Finnigan, Member of Parliament