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NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR WILDLIFE FEDERATION


HOOK & RELEASE

THE SILENT KILLER of SALMON & TROUT

 

This paper is a compilation of DFO science, other scientific presentations, academia and
field studies by experts in the field and by observation of fishermen.

Rick Bouzan

 


The word fish is used in this paper and refers to salmon mainly but also trout. Hook & release kills more fish than poaching.

Poachers keep they fish they kill, but hook & release continues to kill.

Mergansers, hawks, ospreys, eels etc. all eat fish that has been injured by hook & release. 

These predators sense injured, or energy depleted fish. This occurs in the system before if can be identified, and even occurs after hook & released fish appear to recover.

 

DFO has put a figure of 12% to 25% mortality on fish by hook & release. It is possibly higher.

Depleted ATP (energy) levels and increased lactic acid levels in the salmon or trout tissues after hook & release combined with the stress is killing more fish than is reported, given the fact that the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the salmon groups, and the Sierra Club of Canada and others have said that Atlantic Salmon is close to extinction, how can any REAL conservation association allow hook & release. It is a total contradiction.


Hook & release is not a conservation tool nor does it prevent poaching. Poaching occurs at night, when all anglers are off the rivers. Hook & release is a tool for the rich tourists and outfitters to remain on our rivers. Unfortunately, the money the outfitters make is actually destroying the very resource that they depend on to make a business.

 

The program "report a poacher" while good in principle- is actually the cause of retaliation and social problems in communities.

Increases in the number of professional DFO officers (only) and increased education is the real answer.

Volunteers should and must not be used to protect our rivers, and the onus of legal repercussions etc. is the responsibility of DFO only and not private citizens.

 

The ill conceived idea of a combined super force has to be removed and replaced with DFO professional wardens - because it is DFO's responsibility to protect and enhance the resource.

 

Allowing DFO to get volunteers or contract out this service would be a gross dereliction of their constitutional duty and responsibility. Only professionally trained DFO wardens should be allowed to do this considering that the species is almost extinct.

 

Since Newfoundland &. Labrador has over 90% of the remaining wild Atlantic salmon rivers why is DFO not concentrating its' enforcement efforts to ensure its survival? And given that over 90% of wild Atlantic salmon are in this province why in the name of common sense would DFO want volunteers or untrained people doing this important work. If a species is close to extinction only the best professional personnel should be employed in the recovery effort.

 

Why is there not a counting fence on every river to ensure accurate count numbers of fish corning and going to ensure their survival? What about late returning fish when counters are closed?

 

The downloading of DFO responsibility- in the name of community watershed management (CWM) is a way for DFO to unload its responsibility and blame every one else except themselves.

 

Habitat destruction-especially from forestry practices is a problem. Certainly volunteers cannot deal with this major killer of fish. Machines running over spawning grounds causing siltation etc. are killing fish. Pesticides and uncontrolled development and aquaculture arc also causing untold fish mortality.

 

Biologists have told us that there are no trout biologists in the province and DFO has admitted to the tact that they are doing very little in the way of research on hook & release.

 

DFO and other surveys done have been seriously flawed and biased and do not represent the true picture. DFO in their Science Stock Status Report ( salmon) DO-03 1998 state that higher water temperatures kill fish that are hooked & released. 32% of 59 grisle died hooked & released to exhaustion in water of 15 degrees.

 

The ASF has done studies as a private group but the bias is evident and as such not acceptable.

 

If 92% of all remaining wild Atlantic salmon rivers are in Newfoundland & Labrador, then why is ASF head office in New Brunswick? Is it because this American owned ASF (paid for by American Outfitters) is close to New Brunswick and are the one who rent and lease the best salmon pools to the exclusion of the true owners of the resource-

us.

The University of Waterloo did an independent study of Noel Paul Brook in Grand Falls-Windsor on the effects of hook and release and found a mortality rate of over 80%.

 

Members of the ASF and the local salmon groups- namely Len Rich- wrote an article in the eastern Woods & Waters magazine condemning hook & release.

 

Several members of the local salmon groups have resigned from the group over its continued affiliation with ASF.

 

The DFO and the ASF data on hook & release is seriously flawed and their data is not done for any Newfoundland & Labrador rivers-except the Conne. The Conne River showed a hook & release mortality of 20%.

 

The studies paid for by ASF are biased to say the least.

 

The most recent independent, 2-year study was done in Norway on the river Alta. The most amazing finding was that all salmon hooked & released displayed total disorientation and actually swam back to the sea as opposed to going to the spawning grounds. Mortality was also associated with the salmon hooked & released. This type of erratic behaviour was confirmed by DFO in their experiences.

 

The Ponoi river (owned by outfitters and is a private river) study in Russia on hook & release showed that salmon numbers increased not due to hook and release but to the closure of the weir fishery on that river. Also, this river is different than any river in Newfoundland & Labrador and the temperature never goes over 20 degrees, arid has a faster water flow. "However, at warm temperatures, in extremely soft water, or when fish have moved recently from salt water to fresh water the magnitude of physiological disturbance may be increased and the fish may suffer higher rates of mortality." (P123) The Ponoi river has no measuring system for the fish, and the length of time the fish is on the hook is reduced making the their data suspect.

 

Hook & release is a most controversial issue and needs to receive a significant amount of study before it is allowed. All studies done on hook & release appear to he done with a great deal of bias to attempt to show that hook & release works. BUT IT DOESN'T.

 

Experiments by teams in the 1980's have shown that hook and release causes a delayed mortality when fish are angled to exhaustion. Breathing in the fish has shown to be very difficult after they were hooked & released.

 

Other factors leading to fish mortality are the length of time the fish is out of the water, the water temperature- this is a critical factor- the oxygen content of the water, the current flow, the length of time the fish is angled to exhaustion and predators in the system.

 

The most telling study done by M.A. Bobbel et al 1966 was an extensive study done on bright salmon and Kelts in the Miramichi river in New Brunswick. It was revealed that tissue samples from the fish showed the ATP was depleted- ATP and Giycogen (a fish's stored energy) was depleted and it took a long time to recover-if it did recover. Over 12% died.

 

As predators sense injured fish they take advantage of this and the fish mortality goes up - and these are fish that we never see again and thus false assumptions are then made about the benefit of hook & release.

 

Hook & release studies generally only last 12 hours and this too appears to done purposely as the mortality of fish may and usually occurs much later than 12 hours. There are projections that have been done that show the mortality is almost 50% after 48 hours after a fish is hooked & released. Other studies show a significant drop in egg deposition after a fish is hooked and released.

 

The study " Effects of Late Season Catch & Release Angling on Anaerobic Metabolism, Acid-Base Status Survival, and Gamete Viability in Wild Atlantic Salmon" June20/l 994 by Richard Booth, James D. Kiefter, Kevin Davidson, Alex Bleiak and Bruce Tufts showed that all fish hooked & released have elevate levels of lactic acid, a drop in

muscle pH, a drop in the concentrations of  PCr, ATP and glycogen and in egg production. This was more dramatic as water temperature rose and an increase in plasma Potassium, and chloride (electrolytes-used to keep the fish heart healthy).

 

The study by F. Mowbray and A. locke " The Effect of Water Temperature on Angling Catch of Atlantic Salmon in the Upsalquitch River" showed a huge increase in mortality by hook & release in warmer waters, DFO confirmed that salmon mortality was almost 40% for salmon hooked & released in water temperature above 20 degrees within 3 days.

This study also confirms high mortality in both laboratory and field studies if salmon are angled by hook & release to exhaustion at temperatures of 22 degrees (Wilkie et al 1977) Tufts et al 1998. Also, physiological recovery of salmon is reduced.

 

Remember, most hook & release takes place mainly in the summer when water temperatures are high. Why then does DFO allow hook & release when their own mandate is zero habitat destruction and zero human induced mortality on this almost endangered species.

 

According to Black 1958, Beggs et al 1980, Graham et al 1982, and Wood et al 1983 all indicate that exhaustive exercise can result in delayed mortality of a large fraction of hooked & released salmon.

 

The hook & release rule of 4 fish per day is not being followed and cannot be policed, It has been recorded that some 'outfitting camps talk about 12 fish per day being hooked &. released. This is poaching, not a conservation tool. Given a 25% mortality on 4 fish- you can easily see this doubling as more fish are hooked & released. Given that the species K almost extinct how in the name of conservation can ASF or the salmon groups claim that hook & release be allowed to continue. Is it the big money?? One has to seriously question if their mandate is really conservation, because to insist that hook and release is good is really a contradiction of their "proposed" mandate.

 

If ASF is so concerned for the welfare of the salmon why are they not calling for the closure of the caplin fishery? Or protesting the dumping of small shrimp- salmon food?

 

How can any conservation group permit any mortality at all to be allowed given the plight of the species. The answer must be that they are not really concerned for the salmon as much as they are for the commercial exploitation of the resource by industry -who comprise their board of directors.

 

The documents “The Challenge Of CWM for recreational fisheries" developed in April 1995 in Comer Brook and the ERC 'Casting forward a Framework for CWM" summary of these papers by ASF member Larry Felt in which he states " negative economic rent is being generated by both resources'' he implies that by decentralizing the resource and using CWM in which the outfitters will control the resource is the way to go. This means of course that the people who own the resource -the people – will be barred from the resource. This is easily done by using part IV of the land’s act. They appear to want to privatize the resource for economic reasons. New Brunswick its prime salmon pools to the rich and the locals cannot afford to fish their rivers.

 

Joe Doggett- saltwater action paper- states that Bob Colura -Texas parks and wildlife and Jim Dailey-a marine biologist- both have suggested that fish that have been hooked and released do not survive. Only 50% survive. Small fish survive better as they are caught quicker and do not fight as long and exhaustion is not as big a factor. How deeply a fish is hooked is also a factor and deep hooked fish do not survive.

 

Hook & release during the fall season-the main spawning time- should be terminated, at once. Yet, ASF and the salmon groups promote it. Why???

 

Until extensive and conclusive studies are done to show the real damage being done by hook &. release- the practice should be banned.

 

DFO should immediately ban hook & release, based on the sheer volume of evidence that clearly does not support this barbaric practice.

 

The public would not allow a hunter to lasso a moose and drag it up and down a woods road to the point of exhaustion and extreme stress and claim that is good conservation, The Minister needs to immediately do his duty and ban all hook & release fishing.