Well, evidently the situation was watched more or less closely, among others by Colonel A. L. Barry, who at a meeting of the North Shore Salmon Fishermen's Association on November 13, 1946, said that in spite of restrictions and better protection the salmon fisheries had been on the downgrade for some time, and that there had been a big downgrade since 1936, just at the time Mr. Calderwood said it would be noticed. In view of Mr. Calderwood's report and what has been actually observed, therefore, to say that there is no relation between the lowness of the stocks and the number of fish taken by the drift net fishermen is, I believe, absolute nonsense.
The North Shore Salmon Fishermen's Association of New Brunswick have been calling the attention of the Department of Fisheries to the situation for several years, and asking for action. I propose to read part of a resolution passed on April 27, 1948, and sent to the minister:
Our seashore fishermen, being greatly alarmed at the very rapid decrease in the number of salmon they are catching, believe and allege that this destructive net fishery is causing their greatest loss, and a rapid destruction of the whole salmon fishery, and respectfully urge the honourable minister to order the discontinuance of this destructive drift net fishery at the mouth of the Miramichi river as quickly as possible, as otherwise the members of the association believe that the whole salmon fishery of eastern Canada will be utterly destroyed.
The chairman of the council of the association, Mr. George Gilbert, K.C., of Bathurst, has presented the views of the association to the minister on a number of occasions, but so far as I know no action has been taken. On May 19, 1948, the then Minister of Fisheries wrote a letter to Mr. Gilbert in which he said that the department could not accept the statement of the association that drift net fishing was the cause of the declining run. It will be noted, if that letter from the minister is read, that he does not even admit the drift net fishing is or may be one of the causes of the decline in the run. If drift net fishing is not the cause or one of the causes, I call upon the minister to tell us what is the cause of the decline. Surely he and his advisers should be in a position to tell us, particularly if they say that drift netting is not the cause.
I put these questions to the minister, and I believe I am entitled to an answer: First, what is the cause of the decline in our Atlantic salmon fisheries? Second, why have our Atlantic salmon stocks become so low?
In his study of the salmon fisheries of the gulf of St. Lawrence, to which I have referred, Professor Nobbs evidently agrees with the opinion of the North Shore Salmon
Fishermen's Association, for at page 6 of his essay he says:
If your salmon fisheries are to be restored, drift net fishing has to be brought to an end, presumably with appropriate compensation to the owners.
I am not unmindful of the fact that the views of the anglers, the shore fishermen and the drifters are influenced by self-interest. It is only human nature that this should be so. I hold no brief for any of them; I am interested in the conservation and improvement of our salmon fisheries as a national asset. I believe the primary interest of the government in this matter is or should be the maintenance and improvement of the numbers of these fish, which give our fishermen a living and provide the best of food for the public. I believe immediate action is necessary, for the catch is exceeding the present natural increase. As Mr. Calderwood has said, and it cannot be denied, if the catch by nets and anglers exceeds the maximum breeding capacity of the rivers, the utter destruction of the fishery may come with a suddenness that will be tragic.
Matters should not be allowed to drift further. The scientists connected with the department and interested in this matter, it seems to me, are so engrossed in minor details that they have failed to see or appreciate the obvious steps that should be taken to improve conditions. They are like men who cannot see the forest for the trees. There must be some driving force to do what is necessary to improve conditions, and I suggest that the minister should be that force.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES