With Newfoundland and Labrador's recreational salmon fishing season nearing its end, one angler is renewing the call for the federal government to prolong an anti-poaching program at least until the fish are done spawning.
Fishery "guardians" are contract workers hired by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to monitor rivers during salmon-angling season to deter poaching.
But to veteran anglers like Paul White, the guardians' contracts end too early — Sept. 7 in Newfoundland and Sept. 15 in Labrador — weeks before salmon finish spawning.
"Poachers are still out there taking fish and selling to restaurants," White said Friday.
"We're not really blaming anyone specifically but there's a collective intelligence that should be put to work here to make this work."
According to the department, Newfoundland and Labrador has more than 200 fishery officers and guardians throughout the province. In 2022, the department has 129 guardians, including 39 Indigenous guardians.
When the program ends in September, the DFO said N.L. will maintains about 100 fishery officers to monitor rivers and respond to compliance issues.
White said that simply isn't enough. He has been sending letters to federal MPs and cabinet ministers for years outlining his concerns and says he's received support from many other anglers who have the same concerns.
"We just want those guardians hired on until the end of the season when the salmon have spawned, doing their checks, patrols, and keeping an eye on nets and following up on tips because every piece of silver counts," White said.
"We have what's called inland enforcement wildlife officers but they're pulled in so many different directions — salmon, trout, they're at wood piles on the Avalon Peninsula now because forestry falls underneath that. They're doing the hunting, the moose, the caribou. There's a million different things."
He said the recreational salmon fishing season also gives a boost to tourism in many of the province's rural and remote communities.
"There's money going everywhere for everything. This resource, this cultural, authentic resource of Newfoundland and Labrador is too valuable to disappear," said White.
"I know there's certain communities in this province that the tourism industry — the salmon as one part of that resource — keeps those rural communities alive and well in the summer."
Another point of contention, according to White, is the $647 million in federal funding going toward saving Pacific salmon. The five-year-plan was announced in 2021, with the federal government calling it the "largest and most transformative" salmon investment in history. White said there's no corresponding funding going toward protecting Atlantic salmon.
White said his fight is about protecting Newfoundland and Labrador's resource so younger generations can carry on the fishing tradition.
"If that resource is gone then it's gone for a long time. There's no need," he said.
"We need all anglers on board, keep those guardians on, keep the resource as healthy as possible."