Acceptance remarks at the Atlantic Salmon Federation New York Dinner
November 13, 2013
I really don’t know what to say besides: THANK YOU, ALL OF YOU for being present to support the Atlantic Salmon Federation!
Would you join me in a toast to Donal O’Brien? Don and I worked together on numerous conservation-environmental issues for nearly 40 years as a partnership of devoted advocates of wise stewardship. Donal, will all miss you!
His son and daughter-in-law Carolyn and Don Jr. are present this evening and I am confident that Donal’s spirit is here, right here among us.
All Rise: To Donal with boundless thanks!
Among Don’s many outstanding efforts on behalf of the Atlantic Salmon Federation was his driving force to select Bill Taylor to become the Federation’s leader. Bill was best known as the toughest ice hockey player that did not make the National Hockey League. Donal and the selection team members choose Bill. Bill was not only a fearless hockey player, but a passionate fisherman, conservationist and leader. His development into our leader of the Atlantic Salmon Federation has been remarkable and his influence is still growing. His ability to work with great leaders of our organization such as Lucien Rolland, John Houghton, Wilf Carter, Michael Meighen and Richard Warren is testament to his skills as a hard worker, a fine communicator and a man of sound decisions.
Bill, I promise you that working with our new American Co-Chairman, Christopher Buckley, will be easy, as he is an astonishing able, thoughtful expert on water law and the Endangered Species Act but above all, he is a superb, caring human being.
Chris is a fine salmon fisherman and an advocate of the role that the ASF has played in the difficult decisions that have been made and must be made IF the Atlantic salmon population is to grow, prosper and be able to increase in numbers.
I cannot begin my short remarks without thanking the dynamic duo: Paul Fitzgerald and Eric Roberts for the weeks of work that produced the incredible array of auction items and made all the arrangements for this beautiful room and delicious food and drink. We all thank you both - boundless thanks!
We should thank every member of the Leadership Committee. Their generous donations will fund the vital work of the Federation.
You are looking at the world’s luckiest man!
Besides being married to a supportive wife who only questions the importance of spending large sums of money to fish, catch and then release the quarry: whether it be bonefish, permit, snook, trout or Atlantic salmon, she presented me with three children: Nathaniel Jr., Lia and Adrian who are present this evening, as is my nephew Joseph Pryor. Wonderful!
Besides being my offspring, they are among the closest friends and my most successful critics that I can count on. My love and admiration of them is boundless.
I owe thanks to Dan Lufkin, who invited me to join the Whale River Salmon Club and for 25 years provided wings to make the long trip to Kuujuac possible. What years we had! Not only superb salmon fishing on one of the great wilderness rivers in the world, but the joy of life friendships with the likes of Bill Mapel, John Scully, Henry Armstrong, Hobie Claiborne, Jacque Robinson, brother Samuel Reed and an annual cast of characters.
Dan, I am forever in your debt as a friend and as a fellow ‘earth steward’. Donations by you and through the Sharp Foundation bought the ASF time to work with the Greenlanders to dramatically reduce their catch and allowed thousands of salmon to make it back to their North American natal rivers to reproduce and give anglers opportunities that were nearly lost.
I must add a word of thanks to Mary Barley and Paul Tudor Jones, the founders of the Everglades Foundation who are here. They are my compatriots and leaders in one of the most difficult assignments ever attempted: the restoration of the vast everglades ecosystem that has been severely damaged by avarice, greed and incredible errors by the Corps of Engineers. We are now attempting restoration of a battered ecosystem. They both have been invaluable donors and supporters of the ASF.
Mark Birkbeck – master of the House of Bruar, the second most important tourist attraction in Scotland, has flown over to join us – Mark, you are the greatest!
My memory is faltering, but I distinctly remember seeing my first Atlantic salmon! It was in mid-June, probably 1939 or 1940. A beautifully made wooden box arrived by Railroad Express at the back door of our Greenwich, Connecticut, home. It had ‘curious’ holes in the top of the box and it leaked ice cold water. My father took a small crow bar and opened the box. There wrapped in a bed of ferns, iced cold, was a 25 pound cock Atlantic salmon sent by one of the family’s greatest friends, Sherburne Prescott, from the Restigouche Club’s waters.
I stroked its silver side, felt its muscles, examined its body head to tail and was captured by this magnificent fish forever.
20 years later, I was a guest of “Uncle Sherb” Prescott at the Restigouche Salmon Club. We enjoyed incredible salmon fishing. The guides were my instructors – forgiving a “trout strike”, amazed by my 8½ foot Orvis split bamboo rod at a time when the membership were still using long double handed Leonards’ and Thomas’. I can never repay him for his guidance and companionship that continued until his “passing”. I fished at the club for the next four summers and was hooked for life.
Can you imagine an era when a fresh Atlantic salmon could be loaded onto trains all over the Gaspe, iced several times by the train crew before arriving in Montreal and then re-iced and sent to its destination, being iced all the way, and delivered in three days to any town in the northeastern states or four days to any place as far as Florida or even Texas?
Warren Gilker, the manager of the Engelhard Camp and the former manager of the Restigouche Club remembers stacks of the wooden boxes filled with salmon wrapped in ferns and iced, sitting at their town’s railroad stations waiting for the next train. The boxes were made in the winter. The ice was cut from the frozen rivers and was stored under sawdust in innumerable ice houses along all the Gaspe Rivers. What an era; never to be duplicated.
To the business at hand. What is the future of our sport and the great fish that we love with a passion?
Thanks to Rick Warren and Andy Goode’s leadership, the ASF and an associated team of caring organizations have given the remnant population of Penobscot salmon the ability to reach a meaningful amount of spawning water by breaching the Great Works and Veazie dams.
Wouldn’t it be a triumph to see the historic schools of Atlantic salmon returning not only to the Penobscot, but to the Kennebec and all of the seven Maine salmon rivers -- and I might add, we need a review of the Green Lake Hatchery Program that produces beautiful parr and smolts but none of them seem to find a natal river? It’s worth a mighty effort.
One of the Federation’s most significant achievements: the broad acceptance and practice of Catch and Release has been incredibly successful.
Personally, I made the transition easily. Although not embarrassed by photographs of salmon caught and killed, I am now overjoyed to hold a salmon after landing it and have it leave my hands on its way to its spawning grounds. I always add an admonition: “Find a large mate and produce thousands of fertile eggs as your reward for tender handling: Go On, God Bless You!”
Despite our efforts far too many salmon are killed. The figures are unsettling: anglers in Canada killed 35,000 grilse and 2,700 large salmon, all of the large salmon from the Quebec Rivers.
The conclusion of First Nation’s netting at the mouth of the Grand Cascapedia is an example that should be followed at the mouth of the Restigouche! It will take a concerted continuing effort to persuade the tribe to use traps instead of gill nets so the large female salmon can be released to the river to continue the prolific Restigouche systems salmon runs.
The Greenland quota has been negotiated to a comparatively small catch, but it is becoming more difficult to negotiate with the Greenlanders when they read the NASCO report that anglers killed extraordinary numbers of large salmon on the Matapedia. That figure stands out like a very sore thumb in comparison to the successful efforts to voluntarily embrace the catch and release ethic, now a feature of the other Gaspe Rivers.
Matapedia anglers killed 512 large salmon in 2012 and an astonishing 1,016 in 2011, far too many, and in time unsustainable.
The Gaspe Rivers all show definite signs of healthy runs of extremely fit salmon that have fed well off the southwest coast of Greenland and along the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts. The impact of warming is difficult to assess, but so far the food sources that must be found promptly by migrating smolts seem not to have been adversely impacted.
Regrettably, the annual report from the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization indicates that the Irish and Scottish nets kill thousands of wild salmon. Those countries fisheries staffs have not only permitted the netting but have encouraged large salmon farms to be placed in the estuaries of some of their once great salmon rivers thus guaranteeing massive numbers of sea lice will confront hundreds of thousands of departing smolts, ready to suck the life blood out of them. It is hard to believe but in 2011 and 2012, the last two years of record, the combined kill by netters off Ireland and Scotland totaled 58,395 salmon. One wonders how salmon returning to famous Scottish rivers survive this onslaught.
The Norwegians, considered by the majority of the world as a land with a social conscience and a leader in environmental affairs, are the largest villain when it comes to allowing extensive sea and even fjord netting and permitting salmon farms often at the mouths of their once highly productive rivers. Their kill figures are neatly obscured by their reporting to NASCO the tonnage of salmon killed, not the number of salmon killed. This is a trick to avoid the truth that thousands of salmon are being killed in long, well placed nets.
They are destroying their own river’s salmon stocks and have even taken to intercepting the migrating salmon headed for the northern Russian salmon rivers.
The figure jumps off the NASCO report: 696 tonnes of salmon killed! That represents 128,000 plus salmon over the same timeframe permitted if not encouraged to be killed and sold all over Europe.
Over a twelve year period, the Greenlanders killed 100,000 wild salmon while anglers in Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and Norge killed 3.3 million salmon.
Our dream that farmed salmon would force a reduction in netting has not been realized.
Why do wild Atlantic salmon command such a devoted loyalty when the prices are nearly 50% higher than farmed salmon? Could it be the fear that farmed salmon are genetically reproduced and have a harmful concentration of chemicals in their bodies?
I do not know, but I cringe when I visit a fine American delicatessen and am offered “wild Irish, Scottish or Norwegian salmon fresh or smoked”. We should seriously consider supporting a ban on the sale of all “wild Atlantic salmon” -- fresh or smoked anywhere in North America!
Our friend and great ally, Orri Vigfússon, the leader of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund has spent the better part of his lifetime attempting to urge, even beg the countries who flagrantly disregard the damage that their net men accomplish by killing so many potential spawners. The three governmental agencies located in Ireland, Scotland and Norway allow, if not encourage, the scandalous netting of so many salmon reducing the value of the riverside owners’ leases. They should be ashamed! Their agencies have been infiltrated by the netters, the salmon farmers and their distributors.
Orri’s recent flash: “for every 1,000 wild salmon they spare in the Faroese waters, Scottish nets kill 980 of them!” ----- Madness!
Why should any of us care about the gross mismanagement of Atlantic salmon stocks off the coasts and in the estuaries of the once great Irish, Scottish, and Norwegian rivers? It is because we are “stewards of the Atlantic Salmon”. We need to speak out clearly and forcibly about gross mismanagement anywhere within the Atlantic salmon range!
We collectively must be constantly aware of the danger to our prized North American salmon rivers and salmon stocks. Reckless forestry practices, water quality concerns, disease and new predators in the salmon rivers and their estuaries are all continuing threats. We must be prepared to assist Bill and the senior staff of the ASF: Bill Mallory, Andy Goode, Sue Scott, Kirsten Rouse, Todd Dupuis and my new hero: Jonathon Carr. North American salmon are not immune to the madness that prevails in Europe.
ASF finally has financed my “dream come true” – an effective science program that can unravel and potentially solve unacceptably high losses of smolts as they enter and circulate within the receiving estuaries before they head to the open sea.
We need to learn far more about the perils that kelts face, having survived through the winter on body fat. They can “mend”, grow and return as large salmon ready to deliver sport and spawn once again. They need to be protected, as they are swimming “Gold Mines of thousands of eggs” for many of our rivers. We need to know the source of the perils they meet when entering salt water.
This vital scientific effort could be far better financed if every board member and every guest this evening made an extra specified donation to the Federation for Jonathon’s extraordinary research efforts.
Michael Meighen, it is impossible to adequately thank you for your nine years as the Co-Chair of the Federation. The annual board meeting held in Montreal and the magnificent new city of Toronto were always special delights to attend. You have been a special joy to work with. The Canadian Board members of the Federation have been great partners and communicators. We do need more assistance from the Canadian Government especially in addressing the many serious threats of salmon farming.
But you and you colleagues have highlighted the need to reexamine ocean salmon farming and the need for continuing research.
I know you and your Canadian colleagues have worked diligently to make the name and reputation of the Atlantic Salmon Federation known by every salmon angler across your great country. Michael and the contingent of Canadian ASF board members here this evening: we thank each of you for your contributions to the Federation’s success story and wish you continuing sucesses!
So, my friends, colleagues, avid fellow salmon fishermen and fisherwomen, thank you for coming to the Annual New York Dinner. Thank you for your financial support of the Federation.
Above all, thank you for the honor you have bestowed on me.
We share a passion for the privilege of fishing for Salmo Salar. We are custodians of a great fishing legacy and are modern day stewards of the river systems that give anglers of all ages, wealth and skills the privilege of fishing for the “King of Fish”.
God Bless you and again: Tight lines and boundless thanks!