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Pana Merchant

The Hon. Pana  Merchant, B.A. Appointed to the Senate by the Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien, Senator Pana Merchant represents the province of Saskatchewan and the Senatorial Division of Saskatchewan. She has served in the Senate of Canada since December 12, 2002.

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Recreational Atlantic Salmon Fishing

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Statement made on 16 February 2012 by Senator Fernand Robichaud

Hon. Fernand Robichaud:

Honourable senators, I was pleased to hear the Honourable Michael A. Meighen speak about the Atlantic salmon, in particular about the economic impact that this type of recreational fishing has on Atlantic Canada and the need to continue investing in the protection and conservation of the wild Atlantic salmon.

A study conducted by Halifax's Gardner Pinfold and sponsored by the Atlantic Salmon Federation determined the actual value of Atlantic salmon to be a quarter of a billion dollars. Of this amount, $128.5 million is directly attributable to the recreational Atlantic salmon fishery. Almost half this amount is spent in New Brunswick.

It goes without saying that restoring Atlantic salmon stocks will attract more salmon fishers to the region. As a result, increased spending will contribute further to the economic development of our regions, and this includes job creation.

In a region like ours, salmon fishing is part of our culture and our natural environment, so much so that one can feel the excitement in the air when the spring salmon fishing season arrives.

In the spring, the salmon return to the sea to resume their migration. People get very excited about spring salmon fishing. Conversations about the weather yield to speculation about whether the salmon will show up. It is a bit like opening day of lobster season. People get restless and feverish.

The Atlantic salmon sport fishery supports some 4,000 jobs. I understand what Senator Michael Meighen meant when he said, "Just imagine how many thousands more good jobs could be created if the wild Atlantic salmon resource was restored to its full potential."

For that to happen, the federal government must continue investing in the research and support programs administered through Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

In addition, individuals and community groups must continue to help the environment by cleaning and seeding waterways. They will have to redouble their efforts to educate people and youth with a view to preserving and regenerating the Atlantic salmon population and increasing upstream migration.

In the Saint-Louis-de-Kent region, the Friends of the Kouchibouguacis — as the Saint-Louis River is known locally — have been doing important work for the past 20 years.

This volunteer organization is committed to re-establishing and monitoring fish populations and restoring habitats. The group has undertaken many activities together with local schools to raise awareness among students and the general public concerning respect for the environment and the preservation of endangered species.

To educate residents of the surrounding area, the Friends of the Kouchibouguacis offers consultations with a professional landscaper who can offer technical advice about planting native shrubs along riverbanks, preventing erosion and stabilizing water temperature.

What is more, they recommend respecting the buffer zones along the shores, using natural fertilizers, and other simple measures to protect our environment and our rivers.

As far as activities for young people are concerned, the Friends of the Kouchibouguacis organize sessions with various groups of students. For example, last fall, grade 11 students in the environmental science class at l'Assomption high school in Rogersville cleaned up the banks of the Kouchibouguacis River. They were accompanied by their teachers, members of the N.B. Natural Resources staff and members of the Friends of the Kouchibouguacis. They collected some 200 kg of waste.

Not only are they protecting the river, but they are preventing the waste from polluting the estuary or the Northumberland Strait. Another educational activity includes the installation of an aquarium with salmon eggs at a school. The students learn more about the stages of development of the salmon, while taking care of maintaining the aquarium and feeding the smolt, and finally introducing the salmon into the Kouchibouguacis River at the end of the school year.

Another activity directly related to Atlantic salmon conservation is the guided visit of a grade 5 class from the Marée-Montante school in Saint-Louis-de-Kent to the Miramichi Salmon Conservation Centre. The young people are able to observe salmon from the Kouchibouguacis River spawning.

The Friends of the Kouchibouguacis River also make efforts to catch spawning salmon; last year, 21 salmon were caught. Three female salmon produced some 12,000 salmon eggs, which were then fertilized at the Miramichi Salmon Conservation Centre.

Once hatched, those fish are put into a pool at the edge of a brook that empties into the Kouchibouguacis River. When they reach an acceptable size, they are tagged and released into the river. These fish-stocking exercises began in the early 1990s. I have joined friends in taking part in these exercises a number of times by installing a pool fed by a brook that eventually empties into the Saint-Louis River.

The Province of New Brunswick is without a doubt the centre of the Atlantic salmon fishery in North America with over 50 rivers throughout the province. Among those rivers, the Miramichi and its tributaries are known as the most productive.

To stimulate the economy related to this recreational fishery, the province invests $2 million every year. The study Senator Meighen told us about confirms that if the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would invest $15 million in wild Atlantic salmon, Canadians would receive a return on their investment in six years.

For the federal government, this would be a reasonable investment for the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon stocks, thereby ensuring economic spinoffs and jobs for rural and shoreline communities in New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces.

Honourable senators, I think that the activities of the volunteers, combined with provincial and federal government investments, would ensure long-term conservation and regeneration of Atlantic salmon stocks and would also offer the residents of Atlantic Canada increased opportunities for economic development — all the while, protecting our natural heritage.

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