Smallmouth Bass Threaten Native Fish of the Mighty Miramichi Eradication the Only Answer

March 26th, 2010

St. Andrews……The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and the New Brunswick Salmon Council (NBSC) urge governments to eradicate smallmouth bass from Miramichi Lake with the use of rotenone, a chemical commonly used in fisheries management to remove unwanted fish species. Smallmouth bass is an insidious exotic species discovered in the Miramichi Lake in the fall of 2008. It is a significant threat to native fish populations of the Miramichi River, which is famous throughout the world for its run of wild Atlantic salmon.

Immediate action to treat the Miramichi Lake before the smallmouth bass infiltrate the Miramichi River requires a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Environment Canada, and the New Brunswick Environment Department. Mark Hambrook, President of the NBSC, said, “the DFO Gulf region is taking a leadership role in organizing a meeting of the departments to request the MOU for Miramichi Lake, but full cooperation of the other departments is necessary to succeed.”

Bill Taylor, President of ASF said, “We have been in touch with senior officials at DFO who have taken a lead in the eradication plan, but this department alone cannot permit treatment of the lake with rotenone as no jurisdiction has clear authority to authorize its use. We strongly urge the full cooperation of federal and provincial agencies in expediting the MOU.”

Ottawa is considering a change in legislation that will allow DFO to act immediately to permit the use of rotenone in controlling invasive species that are a significant problem throughout Canada. As legislative change could take two years to implement, an MOU is required for immediate action.

The recreational fishery for Atlantic salmon and trout is worth about $25 million annually to the rural economy of the Miramichi River. The river accounts for about 20% of the total return of wild Atlantic salmon to North America.

The cost of rotenone use in Miramichi Lake has been estimated to be about $750,000, which includes application, clean up, and a monitoring program to ensure that the bass have been eliminated.

The present DFO plan, in the absence of rotenone, is to try to contain the smallmouth bass within the lake with a barrier at the outlet and to remove the lake’s bass population by electrofishing, gillnetting and fyke-netting. This work is essential prior to an application of rotenone, but the chance of complete eradication using this method alone is poor. During the assessment phase in 2009, good numbers of bass were removed using some of these techniques, but juvenile bass remain abundant. This indicates that some adult bass survived to spawn in 2009, and it is only a matter of time before the smallmouth bass escape from the lake into headwaters of the nearby Main Southwest Miramichi River.

“This eventuality would be a disaster for the river, its precious salmon and trout populations, and its economic and social benefits for New Brunswick and the rest of Canada,” concluded Mr. Taylor.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation is an international, non-profit organization that promotes the conservation and wise management of wild Atlantic salmon and their environment. ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England). The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.

The New Brunswick Salmon Council, as the provincial council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, promotes the conservation and wise management of wild salmon and their environment through networking and partnerships with like-minded organizations.

Issed by the Atlantic Salmon Federation