Editorial: It’s not just about the great fishing

Miramichi Leader Editorial

Last week saw the announcement of federal funds for the Miramichi Salmon Association to help clear out some beaver dams that are interfering with salmon migration.

As reported by Kris McDavid in Monday’s Miramichi Leader, salmon are having a tough time navigating the narrow tributaries that lead to the coolest, most remote stretches of the watershed where the fish like to spawn. Hindering them are beaver dams that choke the streams and tributaries. However, with this $51,400 in government money, announced by Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and allocated through the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, the local salmon association now has some resources to address the issue.

“With fewer salmon around, what we need is to get them to spawn in the most optimal conditions possible,” said association president Mark Hambrook. “So with this funding we will be able to do a massive beaver dam removal — we’re not out to kill the beaver or disrupt the beaver, all we’re going to do is poke a little hole in the dam to let the fish go by.”

The funding will also allow the organization to conduct aerial surveys using global positioning system technology that will pinpoint the exact location of any problem dams.

For the average person who doesn’t fish, this news may well be met with relative indifference, the general reaction presumably being, “Good stuff for the anglers, but who cares?”

That mindset can to be attributed to the reality that many of us don’t realize the significant economic impact of the salmon fishery to the Miramichi region as a whole. As per a 2010 report report by the  Atlanitc Salmon Federation, the Miramichi salmon fishery contributes a whopping $20 million to the local economy, with more than 600 jobs as per the Miramichi’s angling and outfitting sector.

Obviously that makes the salmon fishery a very important component of the local economic landscape. Especially in view of how tourism is a sector we need to grow in view of challenges as per elsewhere in our natural resources sector, specifically the closure of two major mill operations in recent years.

“We’re still producing good numbers of fish in our rivers and we just need to make sure we manage our river so we’re getting a maximum number of fish to the ocean.” said Mark Hambroook, president of the Miramichi Salmon Association

Various smaller communities along the Miramichi River, such as Blackville and Doaktown, rely heavily on economic spinoff from the salmon fishery. There are people in these villages who operate or work in fishing lodges, tackle shops, restaurants. They work as cooks, as guides, as servers to give a few examples. Their financial security goes as the salmon fishery goes. Subsequently, it stands to reason that if there are low salmon stocks, which in turn means the fishing is not good, then these people’s livelihoods will be negatively affected because there will be fewer anglers visting to cast their lines in the river — and spending big dollars in the process.

That’s no small thing in a region busy working to diversify its economy, and clearly shows the importance of continuing to work towards sustaining the Miramichi salmon fishery for years to come.

Not to mention proving that this latest federal investment of $51,400 is indeed money well spent.

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