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Don't blame sport fishing for salmon decline

I read David Boyd's letter of April 22 ("Sport fishing is behind salmon decline", The Telegram) on this topic with mixed feelings.

I found it difficult to discern whether his perspective was an attempt at humorous discourse or whether it was truly based on ignorance of the facts. Either way, the errors in Mr. Boyd's letter are many. Where should we start?

First, the commercial salmon fishery decimated the Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland for dozens, if not hundreds of years. Indeed, catching salmon for fertilizer, dog food or human consumption all but destroyed multi-sea winter or large fish and was threatening the grilse or small salmon fishery when it was finally shut down. Economically, of course, the value of a rod-caught fish ($25-plus per pound) far exceeds that of a commercially caught fish ($5-$10 per pound?).

Newfoundland salmon do not live in a vacuum of Newfoundland waters and are indeed captured in commercial fisheries in St-Pierre (as Mr. Boyd has referenced) and off Greenland. The plague of poachers and those who knowingly purchase or otherwise procure poached fish are a significant factor, as well.

Finally, we should never forget the forbidden topic of the capture of large fish by Aboriginal fishers off Labrador. These are all stressors on salmon stocks.

I find Mr. Boyd's assertion of "thousands of anglers" in our province most suspect, based on my observations over many years on our rivers and streams. I find Mr. Boyd's reference to anglers having too much time on their hands ironic, given that as a fisher himself, he should be aware of the role employment insurance has to unfortunately play in most fisher's incomes, as they find themselves unemployed for much of the year.

Finally, I completely and categorically reject the criticism in Mr. Boyd's letter with respect to catch and release. Catch and release, when done properly, works very well and inflicts little if any permanent or even long-lasting effects on individual fish. Catch and release works, but it has to be done with patience, skill and finesse, and not in a rough or crude manner. Simply put, a fish destined for release should never be removed from the water.

The misinformation that is often circulated with respect to the Atlantic salmon recreational fishery, based on a hidden agenda or out of ignorance, is very frustrating, and we would all do well to inform ourselves of the facts before speaking or forming firm opinions.

Marvin Barnes

St. John's

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