Meet Richard Firth, a member of our Québec Advisory Committee
Richard grew up in a family of six in the village of Matapédia, Québec and was immersed in the salmon world from an early age. The oldest of four children, he would accompany, at different periods growing up, either his father (as a young guide with him at the Restigouche Salmon Club) or his mother (who was head cook at the main lodge of the salmon club in Matapédia).
“The salmon fishing industry was an especially important and predominant part of our heritage and our livelihood. It provided an income for numerous generations of the Firth family.” In the early years of his education (grades 6,7 & 8), he had the opportunity to go to school with students of Listuguj (not realizing at the time that this would become, later in his career, extremely helpful in appreciating the realities and ways of life of the Aboriginal communities).
After completing high school in Matapedia 1972, he enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces and served for three years. In 1975, upon his return to Matapedia and getting married, he renewed his involvement in the salmon angling industry becoming a guide with the department of Leisure, Fish and Game of Quebec on the Matapedia river. After a couple of years as a guide, in 1977, he became head guide and in 1987 took on the job as manager of the Matapedia and Patapedia rivers for the crown corporation the Société des E´tablissements de Pleins du Québec (SEPAQ).In 1992, the government transferred the management of the Matapédia, Patapedia and Causapscal rivers to a local grass roots organisation known as the Corporation de gestions des rivières Matapédia et Patapédia (CGRMP). He was named the first executive director of this newly-formed non-profit organization. He held that position until retirement in 2012.
“All during those wonderful years involved with salmon angling, I was fortunate to touch different aspects of this beautiful industry. First as young boy, learning the facets of guiding with my dad in the private sector, then as a guide myself in the public sector and further on in life, as a manager of numerous guides and employees working to promote and perpetuate Salmo solar.
“As acting executive director of the CGRMP, I participated and collaborated with different salmon conservation groups; director and chaired the Restigouche River Watershed management Council (RRWMC), director and chaired the Fédération des gestionnaires de rivières à saumon du Québec (FGRSQ), board of directors for Fédération Québécoise du saumon atlantique du Québec (FQSA). I also collaborated in the start up of the Organisme de basin versant Matapédia et Restigouche (OBVMR).
“My perspective on the progress of salmon conservation is a positive one. I recall as a young guide for the RSC (bowman for my dad) in 1971 listening to a conversation between him and his fisherman. That day, we were fishing Lower Patapedia on the Million-dollar pool on the Restigouche. They were discussing how tough the season had been since there was so few salmon in the watershed. The fisherman ended the discussion by stating that if things continued to evolve the way they were, there would be no salmon left to perpetuate the species by the year 2000. I must agree, things looked gloomy at the time. However, the species is very resilient and my experience tends to help me believe that if we continue to work by implicating as many people as possible at all levels towards helping Salmo Salar return to his spawning grounds, he will continue to return.”