A federal ban on catching, keeping, and cooking Atlantic salmon from New Brunswick rivers is heading into its third season. But according to some fishing guides, the ban is having little to no impact on their business.
"The first year we said 'okay this might hurt the business,'" said Tyler Coughlin of Country Haven Lodges. "But when it comes right down to it, nobody really cared."
Coughlin, who offers guided fly-fishing trips on the Miramichi River, said the majority of his business's clientele comes from the United States and Europe. Since the ban came into effect in 2015, they only lost one client, he said.
"And in the U.S. they support hook-and-release a lot," said Coughlin. "Because they've seen rivers collapse.
"They worry more in the U.S. about our rivers than the locals around here do."
Coughlin's statements were echoed by other outfitters further down the Miramichi River .
"There's much to fishing besides bringing the fish home," said Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Outdoor Adventures.
"I have some chaps here from England currently, and one man hasn't caught a fish, and his response is 'Oh, Debbie, we're having a ball, we're with our friends, we're seeing new sights, and it's spectacular.'
"So it's a whole experience, and the fishing is what brings them."
Mixed message from the province
Despite the federal ban, the official Tourism New Brunswick website still advertises: "You've just caught a prized salmon and can't wait to sample it. Try this rustic cooking method right on the shore." The website also offers a recipe for cooking the banned fish.
But Norton and Coughlin said they haven't had to change their advertising, even though the province sends a mixed marketing message.
"And in fact 2017 is shaping up to be the best season that I've ever had," said Norton. "We're hoping for a time that the fish stock will be build up again."
"When that happens it will be tremendous," he added. "But right now, from a business point of view, this hasn't hurt us at all."