Fish Advocates Say "No" to Angling for Endangered Fish
3/6/2000 -- -- Contact: Jeff Reardon, New England Conservation Director, Trout Unlimited, (Camden, ME) (207) 882-4791 firstname.lastname@example.org  Dick Walthers, Chair Maine State Council, Trout Unlimited (Otisfield, ME) (207) 743-7461
March 6, 2000. Augusta, Maine. The Maine Legislature will consider a bill to allow angling for Atlantic salmon, despite recommendations from Maine salmon biologists that salmon stocks cannot support angling pressure. The emergency bill, titled "An Act to Provide an Angling Season for Atlantic Salmon," is sponsored by Senator Richard Ruhlin and co-sponsored by nine other Senators and Legislators, including Matt Dunlap, chair of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. The Atlantic salmon are currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
"Trout Unlimited is stunned that anyone would consider fishing for the few salmon left in Maine," said Dick Walthers, chair of TU's Maine Council.
Last year an estimated 1,300 salmon returned to 13 Maine rivers, according to statistics available from the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission. Fewer than 200 returned to the eight rivers proposed for listing under the ESA. Salmon advocates expressed shock that the legislature was considering this bill as an emergency measure.
"We've been hearing from the state for over two years that the condition of Maine's salmon population is not an emergency," said Jeff Reardon of Camden, TU's New England Conservation Director. "And now some legislators believe that not being able to fish for Atlantic salmon is an emergency. That's outrageous."
In December 1999, the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission voted to close all Maine rivers to angling for salmon as a conservation measure. The Salmon Commission was created by a bill sponsored by Representative Dunlop in 1999, which delegated decisions about angling seasons and other conservation matters to a three-member board that oversees a staff of scientists and policy experts.
Ruhlin's proposal would allow catch and release angling only, but Trout Unlimited claims salmon stocks are too depleted to allow even the minimal risk associated with catch and release fishing.
"Catch and release is a good conservation tool for healthy or recovering populations," said Charles Gauvin of New Gloucester, TU's CEO. "But there comes a time when we anglers need to say enough is enough."
"The real question is whether Maine can afford a practice that we know will kill 10 to 20 fish a year," said Gauvin. Fishing for sea run salmon is already banned in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and on many rivers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where salmon stocks are depleted.
The potential for mortality from catch and release angling is one of several risk factors identified by federal scientists who have proposed listing salmon as endangered.
Penny Gentle, an angler and TU member from Camden, was amazed at the suggestion to allow angling. "What part of extinction do these people not understand? It is time to put our self-serving interest in sport behind us to keep Maine salmon on this earth. Catching them for fun can wait until populations recover."
Trout Unlimited's Maine Council includes 1200 members , and TU's members and chapters have played a leading role in documenting and protecting the remaining populations of Maine's wild salmon. Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is America's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU's 110,000 members in 500 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds.