Celebrating 60 years of conservation

Main story imageA Christmas tradition: Greg Sprague, a board member with the Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA), has helped put together the MSA’s sixth annual fundraising calendar. The calendars have become collector’s items for many, but making the 2013 calendar even more special is the fact that it is celebrating the MSA’s 60th anniversary. Stephen MacGillivray/The Daily Gleaner


Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for the outdoors person in your life or are an avid angler yourself, you’ll want to check out the 2013 calendar from the Miramichi Salmon Association.

“This is our sixth one and this is a big one for us because 2013 is the 60th anniversary of the Miramichi Salmon Association,” says Greg Sprague, a member of the MSA board and the person who organizes the annual fundraising calendar.

“We’ll have a number of special events we’ll be announcing throughout the year, but this is kind of the kick-off event, publishing the 60th anniversary calendar. It’s available now.”

Each year, the calendars have a theme that is related to the Miramichi River and the salmon. In the past, these have covered everything from vintage photos to paintings of river scenes.

“This year we found a series of paintings by an artist from Pennsylvania. The paintings were commissioned by Rocky Brook Camps on the Miramichi and they depict the life cycle of the salmon,” he says.

The artist behind the salmon images in the 2012 calendar is Peter Thompson.

“We thought it was very relevant in this particular year, where we’re having our 60th anniversary, and the salmon are at the heart of what we do. We’re really about conservation, we’re about protecting the whole Miramichi watershed, the whole environment,” says Sprague.

“To us, the salmon is kind of the canary in the coal mine in terms of the health of the environment of the whole watershed.

“Because we’re out there, the anglers are there, the guides are out there, the outfitters are there, constantly monitoring the salmon. We notice if there is any change.”

The salmon are that tell-tale sensor for them, he explains. Is the watershed healthy? Is something wrong that might impact the birds and the plants and the trees and surrounding environment? Keeping an eye on the salmon tells them this and more.

“The paintings were done 10 years ago, but it’s a amazing series that shows through the year what the river looks like and what it looks like underneath,” he says.

Besides the paintings, which grace the cover and each month, there are some old photos included in the calendar as well. These show some of the MSA’s original founders.

“Back in 1953, a bunch of people got together. They were guides, they were fishermen, they were outfitters, people who cared about the river and were very concerned about the impact of things like commercial fishing on the salmon,” says Sprague. “They decided it was time to form some kind of volunteer organization that could look after and protect the river. It’s been a very successful organization over the years.”

The photos and write up inside the front cover offer a bit of a history, as well as a summery of some of the association’s conservation activities.

“We’re very excited about this year’s calendar. They’re available at $15, but we send them out to every member of the organization. Those are going in the mail this week,” he says.

“If a member happens to want extra copies for Christmas presents, they can contact either our Fredericton office or our Miramichi office, or they can buy them on our website.”

He adds, “One of the benefits of membership is you get a calendar every year. The general public can also contact us and get one for $15.”

The calendars make a wonderful gift for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. And over the years, thanks to the unique array of photos and paintings they’ve featured, the calendars have become a bit of a collectors item.

“If you’re interested in being a member, we have a special, where for $25 you can get your first year’s membership and that will include the calendar. Memberships are tax deductible, so it’s a really good deal,” says Sprague.

He’s been a member of the MSA for several years and is currently on the board.

“It’s really good to see the work that’s going on behind the scenes. The general public maybe doesn’t realize the scope of the activities,” he says.

These activities include monitoring the river, doing habitat improvement, supporting research, promoting education and more.

“When you get involved in the association, you understand the salmon is a fragile resource and it takes a lot of people and a lot of hours to raise money to support these really important projects,” says Sprague.

Governments have other priorities, so things like looking after the salmon are being left to others, usually stakeholders who have to step up and care about the issue.

“We spend a lot of time working with governments, both federal and provincial, but also the (First Nation) community, other organizations like the Atlantic Salmon Federation, as well as guides, outfitters and outdoor people in general,” he says.

“To me, it’s really rewarding to be involved in this kind of a volunteer organization.”

The other thing Sprague finds interesting is the impact something like salmon fishing has on the economy of New Brunswick, with people coming from all over the world to see the Miramichi River.

“We have this incredible, world-famous resource in our back yard that people come from all over to see,” he says. “We have such a responsibility to protect it and keep it for future generations.”

The annual fundraising calendar helps the MSA do that.

“The calendar is all paid for by sponsors, so every cent we get from selling the calendars goes directly into our conservation programs,” says Sprague.

To get a copy of the calendar or the find out more about membership in the association, contact the MSA in Miramichi at (506) 622-4000 or nola@miramichisalmon.ca, the Fredericton office at 457-2220 or jo-anne@miramichisalmon.ca, or visit online at www.miramichisalmon.ca.