Earlier this month, Cassandra Ogle read that Morgan Freeman died. And just like Cassandra, 60,000 people rushed to find out more about Morgan Freeman’s death — only to find out it was just another sick Internet hoax. Ogle wrote, “Thought he died, Googled it and found it was a hoax. Man, who … jokes about that? There are some seriously messed-up people out there.”
The lessons here are that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet, and that some people like to draw attention to themselves by posting sensational and potentially harmful untruths.
It happens in the fishing world, too
A few weeks ago, an attention-seeking, self-described expert wrote that Atlantic salmon (AS) are not in decline and that organizations like the Atlantic Salmon Federation are only saying they are in decline to inflate demand in a hatched plan to support their own need.
“They like to fly in private jets and fish for free on AS rivers.” He went on to write that it is therefore acceptable for sport anglers to kill multi-season breeders because biologists like it when you do. They told him personally, he stated, “A number of rivers are stressed because of overabundance of AS, which impedes breeding.”
This man tried to add credibility to his trash talk by posting, “I’ve heard experts say,” but he didn’t name names nor have any actual quotes to back up his misleading statements from what would appear to most as fictitious experts. This is very damaging on a number of levels – some – people take what they see in print as gospel, and misinformation impedes positive cultural progress.
Last week, on Oct. 3, I had the great honor of introducing Orri Vigfússon at the Yale Club in New York City, as he received the Heritage Award from the American Museum of Fly Fishing, an honor bestowed by the Museum for Orri’s outstanding commitment to the sport of fly fishing and the natural resource.
Back in the mid-1970s it became sadly obvious that the Atlantic salmon population was half of its historic levels.
A press release, dated June 16, 2011, regarding the 28th North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) meeting in Ilulissat, West Greenland. stated, “ICES [International Council for the Exploration of the Sea] advice has remained constant since 2000; as pre fishery abundance of Atlantic salmon has slumped from historic levels of 4 million to presently around 1 million fish, there should be no commercial exploitation of stocks. ICES also states that mixed stock fisheries present particular problems for salmon management, in that they exploit fish from more than one river system, therefore making individual stock management impossible.”
Scary to realize that in a 30-year window, the king of all gamefish could spiral downward from 900,000 multi-sea winter Atlantic salmon returning to North American rivers to a dismal 200,000 by 2011, according to ICES and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
Steven J. Cooke and Ian G. Cowx wrote about the role of recreational fishing in global fish crises: “Failure to recognize the potential contribution of recreational fishing to fishery declines, environmental degradation, and ecosystem alterations places ecologically and economically important resources at risk.”
I can remember overlooking a pool in the Gaspé, Quebec, where gin clear waters held the entire breeding stock for that river, and thinking to myself: “Well this isn’t good.” They weren’t stacked in there like cordwood as in years past. That same scene was playing out over and over again on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as anglers returned to their favorite rivers, only to find that the majority of these majestic animals would not be returning.
An ordinary person would think, “Well, that’s sad, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” But Orri, being Orri, didn’t look to other people or governments to fix the problem – he just took action. Action came in the form of a foundation he called the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF). This was the brainchild of an entrepreneurial spirit, a can-do personality, a leader, a dreamer, but most importantly, a doer.
Now we are not talking about saving something as sexy as a panda. Oh, no. Orri was going to try not only to save salmon, but also to change how the rest of the world perceived what was historically thought of as “dinner.” He was going to save the cold-blooded Salmo salar.
This attitude of “I just take one for the table” could spell the demise of the king of gamefish, but not on Orri’s watch. He is trying to change a culture and educate the public to the reality that these fish are far more valuable in the water than on the barbecue.
In his lifetime, he still feels the painful reminders from the fallout of the herring fishery collapse. For me, it was the cod fishery on the east coast of Canada that was fished dry. We owe it to the next generation to learn from history and not repeat the sins of the past.
In some countries, like the UK, Orri has bought out the commercial fishing nets; in others, like Greenland, Orri has created a fund that assists commercial salmon fishermen to target sustainable seafood, rather than the threatened Atlantic salmon – great first steps to allow Atlantics the opportunity to return to their natal rivers and reproduce. Orri and I believe that sport anglers should release all Atlantic salmon to allow the species to recover.
Most people believe that the decline of the fishery is due to commercial mismanagement of the resource, but it is in fact, “death by a million cuts.”
Since the agreement negotiated by the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and NASF, the commercial quota off Greenland has been approximately 25 tons annually, according to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation
Sport anglers and First Nations peoples, over the past several years, have been killing approximately 50,000 to 60,000 Atlantic salmon a year. This number spiked to more than 80,000 in 2011, according to DFO statistics.
People are shocked when they see “25 tons,” but it will stop you cold when you learn that Greenlanders are harvesting 7,000 to 9,000 fish, but sport anglers and First Nations people, in 2011, killed up to 80,000 fish in North America alone, or approximately 140 to 150 tons.
Paul Knight stated at NASCO this year: “This just shows how home countries – specifically Norway, Scotland and England – must regulate their own coastal mixed stock fisheries far more robustly than at present, with a committed target of complete closure. It sends out completely the wrong signals to Greenland and the Faroese that, while they are being asked to sacrifice their salmon fishing in the interests of conserving and restoring stocks, those same fish that were saved on their feeding grounds are being heavily exploited as they return to their natal rivers. It is unfair to Greenlandic and Faroese fishermen, and hypocritical of home water salmon managers sitting at the NASCO table.”
In my library, I have a collection of the “Atlantic Salmon Journal” – every edition since it was first published. The language of fishing has changed a lot since the first publication, but we are still talking about the very real decline of the storied Atlantic salmon. My last words to my fishing buddy Stan Bogdan (1918-2011) were “I’ll see you on the river.” And yes, I feel him with me, each time I go salmon fishing.
The Atlantic salmon, in my view
Atlantics are so much more than just fish. They represent the seasons of our lives.
For me, there is nothing more sad, and for that matter worrisome, than a river devoid of fish. It is against the natural order of things, and was done by the hand of man in the name of greed and pride.