NL extends Fisherman’s Guardian program by 4 weeks, after years of fishermen’s advocacy

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The Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Guardian Program has been extended by four weeks. (Submitted by Heather Goobie)

Just over a week after salmon fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador resumed their annual call to keep fishery guardians on salmon rivers longer, the federal government has extended the program by four weeks .

Guardians are contractors hired by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who monitor the province’s salmon rivers during the recreational salmon fishing season to deter poaching. Their contracts typically start in May and end in September with end dates guided by the timing of salmon runs in various areas.

Some anglers have campaigned for years, begging the federal government to keep guardians on the rivers after the fishing season ends, as salmon continue to spawn in provincial streams until the end. October or early November.

“It’s a presence. People are less likely to do illegal activities if there’s someone watching,” John McCarthy, president of the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland and Labrador, said Thursday.

“Considering that there are no fishermen present at the moment, having guards there is always a good thing.”

Avalon MLA Ken McDonald, who has received emails and letters from Newfoundland fishermen asking him to push for extension of custodian contracts, said he pitched the idea “minister after minister “.

On Thursday, McDonald thanked federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray for tracking and extending the program.

He calls the extension “a step in the right direction” but only 41 fisheries guardians will remain on board. This summer, Newfoundland and Labrador had 129 fishery guardians working across the province. About 100 fishery officers continue to monitor the rivers and respond to compliance issues.

Liberal MP Ken McDonald standing in front of a river wearing a yellow jacket.
Liberal MP Ken McDonald says extending the Newfoundland and Labrador Guardian Program is a step in the right direction. (Mike Moore/CBC)

“Some rivers close earlier than others, so I think 41 will be able to handle the rivers that are still open until October 7,” McDonald said.

“This will give the Atlantic salmon some protection for the next four weeks. I’m not saying people on the rivers are doing anything wrong, but if there’s no enforcement, it might tempt someone to take that chance to do something wrong that will end up hurting future stock.”

Three rivers – Gander, Exploits and Humber – remain open in Newfoundland until October 7 for a fall fishing season, under a catch-and-release policy.

A new change

McCarthy and other advocates want to see guardian contracts extended even longer.

He said the salmon will still be in the rivers after the Guardians’ new end date of October 7 and he wants to see two more weeks while the fish finish spawning.

“Illegal activities can catch 50, 60 or 100 fish a night [of the river] with a net,” McCarthy said.

“If you can stop a net from going into a river by having a keeper program, and that river probably has 800 fish, that’s very impactful.”

But this year’s extension could also pave the way for changes to the program in years to come.

McDonald said he thinks the end of October date will be the new normal.

“I think it will probably stay put,” he said. “I think it’s something the department now recognizes that if angling season is still open we should still have the river wardens on the rivers to make sure everyone is following the rules. .”

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