Petit Saguenay River

May 4, 2015

Anglers on the Petit Saguenay River sign Charter to protect precious salmon

When Richard Bernier viewed a disturbing video of a badly executed catch and release that had almost surely resulted in the death of a once healthy wild Atlantic salmon,

he decided that something had to be done to prevent such an unfortunate situation from happening again. That was in September, 2010.

An experienced angler, and director general of the Petit Saguenay River Association (PSRA), Bernier decided that what was needed was a clear and simple teaching tool, something visual that would help anglers learn how to assure the survival of the salmon they were catching and releasing. Also necessary was a commitment from anglers to preserve fish and their habitat, and to practice what they learned about properly catching, handling and releasing a salmon. That’s when Bernier came up with the idea of developing a Charter for the protection of wild Atlantic salmon.

To move his idea forward, Bernier called upon five experienced anglers in the area to form the Committee to improve survival of Atlantic salmon in the Petit-Saguenay River (ISASPSR). The committee’s mandate was to develop the salmon protection Charter and the educational tool that would help anglers improve their practices. The project has so far received $22,000 from ASCF, since 2012.

The educational tool, which the committee called the Atlantic Salmon Survival Scale, was developed by Bruce Tufts of Queen’s University, a recognized expert on how environmental conditions and angling practices affect fish survival. With Tufts’ recommendations, the committee developed a poster that shows the recommended amount of time to play a fish relative to the temperature of the water, and proper procedures for handling the salmon when releasing it.

“We have created large, high quality billboards of the poster, which are displayed in eight strategic locations, those considered the best fishing spots on the river,” Bernier reports proudly. “We also hire a project coordinator each season, whose job it is to distribute our educational materials, assist and educate anglers on proper catch and release procedures, and raise awareness of our Charter for the protection of wild Atlantic salmon and encourage people to sign it.”

The key points of the Charter call upon the signatory to respect the Atlantic Salmon Survival Scale when playing a salmon and to release all salmon, even the grilse, after they are captured; to stop fishing after he/she has caught two salmon; to use fishing tackle that will not harm the fish; to report anglers who do not respect the environment or are not using sustainable angling practices; and to endeavour to educate new anglers about proper procedures, the survival scale and the Charter.

At last count, the Charter already had close to 40 signatories including anglers from as far away as Fredericton and New Hampshire, as well as local businesses and artisans and the managers of other ZECs

“We are very proud of our progress,” says Bernier. “The Charter presents a way for resource management and the sport fishery to exist in harmony, respecting the environment and furthering the principles of sustainable development.  It has already had a positive effect on our valuable salmon resource.”