Originally published on CBC.ca, September 3, 2018

By Hadeel Ibrahim

Eel Ground First Nation has struck the first striped bass commercial fishery deal in the Miramichi River since 1996.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans put a stop to commercial fishery on the river after the bass population declined to only 5,000.

But in the past 10 years, the bass population has boomed, tripling from 2016 to 2017 to reach almost a million.

Eel Ground Chief George Ginnish said the First Nation has been fighting for a commercial fishery deal for years, finally signing an agreement in June to fish 25,000 striped bass this fall.

“It’s probably been 10 years that we’ve been banging on that door,” Ginnish said.

He said it’s too soon to say how much revenue the deal will bring to the First Nation or how much the fishermen will actually be able to sell.

However, the fishery will likely be a relatively small operation, with one vessel and four or five fishermen.

Ginnish said it’s a small step, but the First Nation would rather “dip its foot in the water” before diving headfirst, not knowing what the yield is or what impact it will have on the river ecosystem.


On the recreational side

Jeff Wilson, co-host of the Miramichi Striper Cup, an annual catch-and-release bass fishing tournament on the river, said the decision to allow a commercial fishery makes him a “very concerned citizen with regards to striped bass recreational fishery.”

Wilson said the greater numbers of bass in recent years have been “very good” for the tourism and recreational fishing industry in the area, increasing the chances amateur anglers will snag a bass on their first try.

“Making major moves like this, by taking and starting a commercial fishery, when in fact history shows this population cannot sustain it, is absolutely economic travesty,” he said.

Les Ginnish, resource manager for Anqotum Resource Management — a group representing seven New Brunswick First Nations — said he doesn’t believe 25,000 fish would have much impact on recreational fishing.

“We should be working together, not fighting with each other,” he said.


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