Striped Bass Pose a Serious Threat to Salmon Smolts
Striped Bass Pose a Serious Threat to Salmon Smolts – Unrestricted Fishing Season for Striped Bass is Urged
Miramichi Salmon Association Press Release; Monday, November 25, 2013
The Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) is gravely concerned about the huge number of striped bass spawning in the Miramichi River estuary with estimates as high as 400,000 of these fish, almost 20 times more than the number of adult striped bass spawners required to meet their minimum conservation level.
At virtually the same time each spring there are approximately1.8 million small Atlantic salmon smolts migrating from the Miramichi watershed towards the ocean. As these salmon smolts pass through the concentrated schools of striped bass, there is a dramatic risk that almost an entire smolt run could be consumed. Simple math indicates that if each bass ate only five salmon smolts, an entire year class of Miramichi salmon would be extinguished.
The MSA believes that this dramatic risk should not be taken! It has strongly recommended to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that an unrestricted fishing season should be introduced immediately to diminish the striped bass populations. Not only would this relieve conservation pressures on Atlantic salmon smolts, but would also provide for both a commercial striped bass fishery by First Nations and a very productive fishing season for New Brunswick anglers young and old.
While the evidence is anecdotal, anglers from the very restricted striped bass fishery in 2013 have reported that, by using large lures the same size as salmon smolts, and by fishing in optimal locations through which salmon smolts pass, it was easy to hook hundreds of bass by rod and reel in a single day. These stories strongly substantiate that Atlantic salmon smolts likely form a major portion of the diet for striped bass in these locations.
At its annual fall Directors Meeting, the MSA unanimously passed a resolution calling on DFO to implement a two-month unrestricted fishing season for striped bass in the Miramichi estuary, running from April 15 to June 15, 2014, and that it be continued in future seasons until the striped bass populations are brought down to a balanced conservation level.
Fellow Members of the MSA,
Today I am ashamed to be a member of the Miramichi Salmon Association. My shame arose after reading an article which appeared in the November 36th edition of the Telegraph Journal and which is reproduced on the MSA website. In the article, MSA is calling for an unrestricted Striped Bass angling season in the Miramichi estuary in order to reduce Bass populations. They further recommend a commercial Bass fishery by First Nations. The reason MSA proposes this slaughter is the perceived threat that Bass pose to the migrating Atlantic Salmon smolt population. MSA makes a number of statements in support of this proposal. The problem is that there is little, if any, evidence to support these statements. Hence my shame.
Do we not recall that, until very recently, Striped Bass in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were classified as an endangered species? How can the MSA, as a conservation organization, make a public proposal to launch such an attack on this or, for that matter, any other species? This is especially galling to me because we have so little knowledge of the dynamics of this population. Why, you even note that you intend to gather the science but only after the institution of these fisheries.
Striped Bass have existed in the same physical environment as Atlantic Salmon for hundreds of years. For that matter, so have Cormorants, Mergansers and various seal species. As is so often the case in the natural world, a balance existed among them. This balance has been disrupted and the identity of the species that caused that can be seen in our bathroom mirror every morning. We need to focus our attention and efforts on changing the activities of ourselves rather than those of the Striped Bass. We need to stop being so self-centered.
I say shame on the MSA!
Thanks for your comments regarding the Striped Bass press release. I thought I might add a few points for clarification on the MSA position regarding striped bass and Atlantic salmon. You are very accurate in stating that “As is so often the case in the natural world, a balance existed among them. This balance has been disrupted and the identity of the species that caused that can be seen in our bathroom mirror every morning.” In the case of striped bass before the year 2000, there were no regulations pertaining to harvesting striped bass and adult bass were caught as a by-catch in commercial gasperaux gear each spring on the Miramichi and sold locally and juvenile striped bass were incidentally caught in the fall commercial smelt fishery, where thousands would perish every day as an unwanted by-catch. Anglers also caught some bass, but when DFO imposed the moratorium in 2000, it was the changes introduced to the commercial fisheries that DFO attributes to the success of the restoration program. Once protected, the bass numbers began to improve and spawning escapement was achieved in 2007 (target of 21,600 adults) and every year since that time. Assessments were not available in 2010 and 2012, but in 2011, the DFO assessment placed the number of adult striped bass at 200,000 fish and from field observations, there have been this many fish in the river since 2010. This amount of bass has not been observed before in living memory on the Miramichi and has reached this number only because of man’s interjection to protect the species. This swell in population is causing an imbalance to the ecosystem of the Miramichi and measures need to be taken to put things back in balance. The desire is to see a thriving striped bass population on the Miramichi, perhaps double or triple the spawning requirements, the same as we would like to see in a thriving Atlantic salmon fishery. Alas, the Miramichi has not met spawning requirements for the past 2 years and we are not sure what role striped bass plays in this shortfall of adult returns. We do know that striped bass populations are probably at an unsustainable level and are at 10 times the spawning requirement. It is time to ease restrictions on harvesting to put striped bass populations back to sustainable manageable levels. DFO can manage this population by permitting an increased angling harvest and if required, a quota-based commercial fishery. The MSA doesn’t want to see striped bass slaughtered, but we do want to see a balanced ecosystem where all species are at sustainable levels and to get there, the number of bass must be reduced now. I believe the majority of MSA members support this position.
residents cannot fish salmon now because most of the salmon pools are PRIVATE AND ONLY FISHED BY MONEY PEOPLE OR COMPANY CLIENTS. EVERYBODY CAN GO OUT BASS FISHING. I HAVE SEEN THE SHORES LINED WITH ADULTS AND CHILDREN, ALL OF THEM GETTING A FISHING EXPERIENCE OF THEIR LIVES AND THE KIDS BECOMING HOOKED FOR LIFE. It is such a pleasure to watch the people of the river being able to fish again. A big salmon pool may be only fished by one or two clients/day and I have seen many days when several pools on the river have no fishermen using them, but the big Private Water signs are still there. I have fished salmon for sixty years, but after seeing what pleasure the local adults and children are having with the bass, and knowing that there is nowhere for them to fish salmon unless they are of the elite class, I am really at a quandry when it comes to getting rid of most of the bass. The salmon fishing now is like Europe-it does my old heart good to see so many people be able to just go fishing- like it should be, even if it is for bass-it is all that is available to them. Saving all of the salmon won`t do most of the people along the river any good-the pools have all been taken from them.