Good morning and let me begin by saying what a pleasure it is to be here in Northeastern New Brunswick, and to share the stage with my colleague Tilly O’Neill Gordon, the hardworking Member of Parliament for Miramichi.
We have come to Miramichi specifically to deliver great news for the community and surrounding area, and for everyone who is devoted to improving the salmon fishery and recreational fishing habitat in general.
Salmon counts throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are again low this year, with some locations, such as the Miramichi River, showing the lowest counts on record. This follows similarly low counts in 2012 and 2013, following high returns in 2010 and 2011.
Counts in Newfoundland and Labrador show slight increases in some rivers. However, most counts are lower than the average from the past five years.
The continued low levels of salmon stocks across eastern North America, despite significant fishery reductions, and generally sustained production of juveniles, strengthens the conclusions that factors well beyond our shores are constraining Atlantic salmon stocks.
Our Government has heard loud and clear your concerns about low salmon returns. I have had the chance to discuss it with my colleagues from the Atlantic Caucus before the House of Commons adjourned, and I certainly thank them for their precious feedback.
I am pleased to announce the establishment of a new Ministerial Advisory Committee on Atlantic Salmon, that will build on the investments, management measures and science we already conduct. The objective of the group will be to consult amongst themselves as experts, and with other regional stakeholders, in order to produce recommendations that can be implemented in the near-term to address the low returns of Atlantic salmon on the East Coast.
The committee will be made of members representing the four Atlantic Provinces and Quebec, as well as First Nations. The committee, supported by officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, will meet on at least four occasions, in various provinces, between February and June 2015. There will also be opportunities for written submissions.
The advisory committee will focus on four areas:
- Conservation and enforcement measures
- Strategy to address foreign over-fishing
- Focused areas for advancing science
Following the committee’s report, the Minister will examine the possibility of a longer-term Advisory Committee.
As you know, there are already comprehensive consultative processes in place to engage stakeholders on Atlantic salmon. This includes the Atlantic Salmon Advisory Committee as well as several regional consultative bodies. The Ministerial Advisory Committee complements the work of existing processes.
Our Government is committed to the conservation and protection of our vital Atlantic salmon resource. That is why we are determined to work with our partners to review current approaches to science, management, habitat restoration and international issues.
We all share the same objective: Conserving wild Atlantic salmon for future generations of Canadians.
In order to achieve our goal, we require in-depth species research. That is why the South Esk DFO Science facility is so valuable.
DFO science staff work alongside collaborators to support departmental work on Atlantic salmon and other inland species. This facility also serves as the hub for annual fish monitoring programs in the region.
You might remember the announcement made by our Prime Minister in November. In the near future, our Government will invest $5.8 billion in federal infrastructure across the nation
I am pleased to tell you today that several millions dollars will go to science facilities like this one, and fishways. All these investments will benefit Atlantic Salmon.
I look forward sharing more details with you on this new funding, which should be possible over the next three or four months.
Just another way our Government is working hard to support services to Canadians that in turn contribute to Canada’s long-term economic prosperity.
We will also continue to support salmon harvests, where the conservation status of populations allows, and will take measures to reduce harvests, when and where necessary, based on scientific advice.
Our Government will continue to work cooperatively with Greenland, under the auspices of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, to address concerns regarding the harvest of Atlantic salmon in the northwest Atlantic.
Our commitment goes further, however. I am proud to tell you that, since 2013, when our Government created our Recreational Fisheries Partnerships Program, over $4 million has been provided in the Atlantic Regions for projects aiming to restore, rebuild and rehabilitate wild Atlantic salmon habitat.
And today, we are awarding more than $33,000 in funding under Round III of the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program to the Miramichi Salmon Association. I’m pleased to acknowledge the presence of Mark Hambrook, President of the Miramichi Salmon Association, who is with us today for this announcement.
This funding will help pay for the long-term habitat enhancement of two additional important cold-water pools in the Miramichi River. These pools are critical to Atlantic salmon habitat.
That’s not the first project I have the honour to announce with the Miramichi Salmon Association. I was here in September of 2013 to announce funding to improve access to critical spawning habitat for wild Atlantic salmon in the Miramichi River.
As it was prior to this project, beaver dams on four key branches of the Miramichi River were creating barriers for salmon trying to pass upstream. Following aerial surveys, the Miramichi Salmon Association intended to locate natural obstructions and beaver dams. It was anticipated that over 100 beaver dams would be removed or breached to improve salmon access to their critical spawning ground habitat.
That’s all great news for our conservation partners here with us today. Groups like yours make a real difference in protecting and preserving our rich recreational fisheries and their habitat.
Since its inception, the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program has brought together Government and private sector partners and pooled their resources to support the common goal of conserving and protecting Canada’s recreational fisheries.
The program has been a tremendous success. It was introduced as part of our Government’s Economic Action Plan 2013, with a budget of $10 million, and received an additional $15 million in 2014.
The program lets our Government support an important economic sector while also ensuring sustainable fisheries.
I congratulate proponents such as the Miramichi Salmon Association who applied under this program. Our Government is proud to support your work.
Miramichi is renowned for its pristine Atlantic salmon rivers and recreational fishery experience. Preserving the precious habitat that supports them is imperative.
As you can see, our Government has listened at concerns expressed here in New Brunswick but also elsewhere in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. I was proud today to highlight measures, initiatives, science and investments we are already doing. But it was equally important to me to express that our Government is open to work with you to look into what more could be done, or how we could do things better and differently.
The work and the recommendations of our new advisory committee, and your continued support for recreational fisheries through the Conservation Partnership Program, will help us achieve that goal.