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Jack Sheppard of Cormack, an executive member of the Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance, had some props to help make his point that salmon returns are up overall so far this year from the 2017 numbers.
Jack Sheppard of Cormack, an executive member of the Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance, had some props to help make his point that salmon returns are up overall so far this year from the 2017 numbers. - Gary Kean

The Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance is fed up with being ignored and not taken seriously, but is far from backing away from the debate on Atlantic salmon management.

The group, known largely by the acronym CORA, has defiantly objected to the management plan for salmon in the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador, especially this season’s approach.

While it has been branded as being an anti-hook and release group, CORA says that is not at all true. It does firmly believe retention fishing is crucial to protecting salmon stocks from poaching, but CORA also supports those who only wish to catch fish and then release them.

Salmon fishing got off to a rocky start with anglers permitted to retain just one fish, pending an in-season review by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. That review has since led to the prohibition of retention fishing for the remainder of this season, with anglers allowed to catch and release fish only.

According to the numbers of fish counted at the province’s 19 fishway counting fences, though, salmon returns so far this season have increased over what they were at this point last year.

Dismayed by the science behind the decisions made regarding the fishery, CORA held a public meeting in Deer Lake Tuesday night to discuss how it will proceed, given some fear there will be no retention fishing in 2019 at all.

With an audience of about two dozen people, alliance president Gary Gale announced details of action CORA wants to see taken to better conserve salmon and have retention fishing next year.

Among the plan was a call for the provincial government to insist on co-managing the salmon fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador with the federal government. Provincial Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne, who attended the meeting, did not specifically commit to that. Byrne did reiterate what steps the province has taken this year, namely placing a 10-fish limit on catch-and-release angling to help alleviate any mortality rates associated with that practice, lowering the cost of a salmon angling licence to $5 in an effort to encourage more people to go fishing, and undertaking a study on the impact catch-and-release fishing has on salmon.

Here are the highlights of the actions CORA wants to see happen:

- A poster publicity campaign encouraging inclusion of both retention and hook-and-release fishing in 2019.

- More regulations for hook-and-release angling, including a “keep salmon wet” requirement prohibiting the removal of any fish from the water before being released.

-  Have the Department of Fisheries and Oceans develop and announce a management plan in the fall for the following season and adhering to the main objectives of that plan, even with an in-season review.

- Change the rivers used as indicators of salmon stock health so that every index river has an expected return rate of at least 1,000 fish. Several of the 14 current index rivers typically expect to see far less than that.

- The Department of Fisheries and Oceans needs to do a better job of enforcing its own warm water protocols when it comes to closing and opening rivers due to environmental conditions.

- Salmon stocks and angling plan should be co-managed by both the provincial and federal governments.

- Set up a hatchery to populate Newfoundland and Labrador’s river systems with more fish.

- Conduct more research into what is happening to Atlantic salmon while they are at sea, including more studies of the impact of predators such as seals.

- Improve the consultation process. CORA claims it is not being listened to at the table when groups get together with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to discuss salmon management.

- The provincial government should do an economic impact study to determine what resident salmon angling means to the province.

- CORA has been establishing citizen scientists throughout the province. These people do things such as test water temperatures and then notify the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of their observations to help determine when conditions are favourable or not favourable for angling.

- Install and operate more counting fences to get a better idea of salmon returns.

- Based on salmon returns so far this season, CORA is calling on DFO to release one more tag for retention fishing when water temperatures reach approved levels

- Since Gudie Hutchings, the Liberal Commons member for Long Range Mountains, has not attended any of the CORA meetings she has been invited to, the group will be scheduling to hold its next meeting at her office in Corner Brook.

(***This article was edited at 10:10 a.m., Aug. 8, 2018 to include two more action items decided on by CORA after announcing its initial list and to include Gary Gale's title.)

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