President of salmon anglers' group blames 'petty politics' for delayed start to season

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President of salmon anglers' group blames 'petty politics' for delayed start to season

President of salmon anglers' group blames 'petty politics' for delayed start to season

The head of a Newfoundland anglers' group says a delayed opening to salmon season could have been avoided if provincial and federal governments worked together better.

Jim Dinn, president of the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland, said the group is frustrated by the late start to the season, announced Friday by provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne, but adds his group isn't buying the stated reason for reprinting the licences.

"I understand certainly from listening to what Minister Byrne had said in the past, in the last week, that it's because of the legal language, which SAEN believes is a red herring and more or less meant to be punitive, I guess, and delay the opening of the season," he said, "because it seems that Minister Byrne and what appears to be the group he's representing, weren't happy with the decision by DFO."

Earlier this year, DFO announced a one-fish retention limit and a catch-and-release limit of three for 2018, as a response to a sharp decline in salmon return numbers in 2017.

However, the minister says it's not a political issue but added the delay is due to a federal government error. 

"There's no petty politics, only those who criticize something they know nothing about," Byrne said.

Difficult but balanced decision

Anglers would have liked to see higher limits, said Dinn, but at the time said it was a difficult but balanced decision. Byrne at the time was more critical, saying the decision would lead to less salmon conservation, hurt tourism and alienate conservationists.

Dinn said his group asked for a meeting with Byrne to discuss his comments, but didn't hear anything back.

"So I can only assume that Minister Byrne is not interested in hearing from provincial conservation groups on DFO's decision, and what it would mean for the salmon stocks," he said.

When asked why he hasn't responded to Dinn's request to a meeting, Byrne said there are only "so many hours in a day" and that he is open to a meeting and has met with other groups. 

He further said Dinn had an opportunity to speak with him at a salmon advisory committee meeting held in March that included salmon groups and DFO.

However, Byrne claims he wasn't welcome — a decision he said was backed by Dinn. 

"I was denied access. I was denied to participate … and after I was denied that access groups such as the Salmonid [association] endorsed that decision to deny me access to that meeting." 

Worry that prime season will be missed

"It's frustrating because it seems to be petty politics that's in place here. … From an angler's point of view we would have all liked to have seen a greater retention limit if — and this is the key thing here — if the science, the best science that we have, the best science that DFO has would indicate that stocks could handle it. We didn't get that."

Dinn said that didn't need to result in a delay to the season.

"I think in many ways, Minister Byrne and his department could have taken a more proactive and constructive approach: 'OK, how do we make this season work? Let's put aside our differences. We didn't get what we wanted, but how do we move forward?'"

Dinn said with the delay, the concern is that anglers will miss the best part of the season.

"Depends on when the rivers reach their peak," he said. "Some rivers, I know that there are people, anglers, who have trips planned for the first week of June, which I presume now is going to be held in question."