Salmon association launches $2M campaign
By Samantha Magee
MIRAMICHI — As the Miramichi Salmon Association celebrates its 60th anniversary of conservation efforts on behalf of the Atlantic salmon, they have launched a campaign to raise $2 million to fund existing programming and start new initiatives. The goal is to raise $1 million for the Miramichi branch of the association and $1 million for their branch located in Boston to go into what they’re calling the Forever Funds.
Miramichi Salmon Association president Mark Hambrook said the association is already making headway with $250,000 committed from board members.
“One director in New Brunswick contributed $100,000 and someone from Miramichi contributed $40,000,” he said.
One such board member is former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, who is acting as honorary chairman for the campaign.
“On their own, the river and the salmon are uniquely special, but taken together as the Miramichi salmon they present a single image of two natural treasures that are world renowned,” said McKenna in a news release. “As with all such cherished resources, each one of us bears responsibility to pass them on to future generations in as good or better condition that we found them.”
The salmon association’s campaign brochure states that salmon populations in the North Atlantic have been decreasing over the past three centuries by 90 per cent, largely due to the mortality rate at sea, for which the cause is still unknown, said Hambrook.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Miramichi Salmon Association are cooperating on a project where transmitters are attached to adult salmon and data is currently being analyzed in hopes of finding the cause of death.
The money raised through their current campaign would fund current efforts which include: keeping track of the population of young salmon, spawning them in hatcheries and releasing the young back into the river, counting adult fish and removing beaver dams to allow fish to spawn along with other initiatives.
“We’re firm supporters of wild salmon.” said Hambrook, who explained low-density areas are targeted where the juvenile salmon are released in hopes of boosting the population. “Our hatcheries here are really as an emergency measure to get more fish into the river.”
Those who make donations to the fund can specify what projects they would like to see their money go towards if they wish. Other planned initiatives include improving cold-water holding areas for adult salmon.
Last summer there were fishing bans across the Miramichi river to preserve the salmon as the water temperatures escalated. Warm water makes salmon lazy, making them vulnerable to anglers.
“We want to be able to protect those fish and get that cold water out into deep enough water to be safe,” said Hambrook, who explains his association has already been looking into hiring hydrologists to execute that plan.
Another specific issue the Maritime Salmon Association is working towards is decreasing the amount of juvenile salmon smolts (fish between one and three years old) who are perishing in Miramichi Bay.
“About 10 years ago, 70 per cent of the fish tagged up river would make it out through Miramichi Bay now we’re down to 50 per cent.”
A big factor is the increased number of striped bass on the river said Hambrook.
Striped bass are considered an endangered species and because of efforts to conserve them their numbers are now doing so well that they have made the young salmon a staple of their diet.
“Their numbers have come back now to more striped bass than anyone in living memory has ever seen…We’re hoping DFO is contemplating opening up the angling fishery for striped bass this summer.”
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is proposing to add salmon in this region to the endangered species list, something Hambrook said his association is unsure about. Although it would help protect the fish by further restricting fishermen, he understands that the local economy is dependant on the salmon angling industry.
There are already sections of river on the Miramichi which are designated as hook and release only.
“Will people come here if they know they’re going after a fish on the endangered species list?” said Hambrook. “That’s 20 million bucks a year in revenue gone, yet we want to save salmon.”
He said will be attending meetings this weekend with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the subject. He said he expects the department would make the announcement sometime in the fall.
Anyone wishing to make a donation they can call the local salmon association office at 622-4000.