Resource management - A Science or an art?
When I look over the variety and quality of information
we have access to here on the Ste. Marguerite River, I
am just amazed sometimes that one can make heads or
tails of it.
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada
Being an Atlantic salmon river, we record all captures;
length, weight, sex, pool taken from etc. Further, all
released salmon get guesstimates recorded. Trout are
The wardens and the biologists get a fairly accurate
count of the number of salmon scattered up and down
the river. There is also a counting cage in the upper
reaches where fish are retained, then counted before
continuing their journey upstream to the spawning beds.
A weir with a monitoring station gets us live measurements
of water flow and temperature.
The research center for Atlantic salmon is also located
here on the river and did an extensive tagging and
recapturing of trout. (http://www.bio.ulaval.ca/CIRSA/menu.htm)
And there are the river reports and scouting information.
No wonder newcomers are a bit dumbfounded when they hear
us chatting about the different pools and runs.
Recently, I was up on the observatory on the #23 pool chatting
with some anglers. James Castwell's mild mannered look-a-like
was there too. Peering into the pool, the fellow next to me
mentioned that there were 28 salmon, but the low sun was making
it difficult to spot them.
I replied: "Oh, 28, ... 4 have left then?"
Angler: "Yup, the big female moved up to the #24 and the
other 3 headed West" (upstream to the upper reaches).
Jim was a bit skeptical. He looks at me and says:
"How many salmon are actually in the river then?"
I replied: "Well, about 475."
More skeptical looks...so I add: "Well,...between 450
and 500 then".
Then comes the tough questions. Like, if we have so much data,
how come we don't know why the salmon stocks are declining?
Could be from the river getting blown out in '96 from the
10,000 year rain event.
Well, you get the idea.
Could be because of locals netting salmon off the British Isles
(nope,...genetics proved that one wrong for our stocks).
Could be a natural long term cycle in the population.
Could be because of the over harvesting by sport fishing.
Could be the seals and sea lions.
Could be a decline in prey fish for food.
I'm a forester by trade and we have enough trouble doing an
accurate forest inventory (well,...there are 35 million
hectares of land). Image trying to manage (or at least
understand) a species which leaves the river for 2-6 years
and migrates over 6,000 miles.
We have the same problem getting a handle on sea run brook
trout population dynamics, and they only migrate 100 miles
out and back to the fjord.
Natural resource management is an art, (in my honest opinion).
We try to base our actions on science and numbers, but even
that doesn't always give us a solid footing. Recent documents
suggest that even the retention of Grisles (juvenile salmon
who return to the river) could have an impact on the population
(or at least the genetic diversity of the population).
Maybe I don't want to know EVERTHING about the species anyway.
After all, it is the mystery, the mystique about salmon that
adds something to the sport. ~ Chris Chin, Jonquiere Quebec
Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops,
British Columbia. He has been fly fishing
on and off ever since he was 10 years old.
Chris became serious about the sport within
the last 10 years.
"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time
guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in
central Quebec. I've been fishing this river
for about 10 years now and started guiding
about 5 years ago when the local guide's
association sort of stopped functioning."
Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout
and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon.
"I often don't even charge service fees, as
I'm more interested in promoting the river
than making cash. I like to get new comers
to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for
anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around
here makes some of the old clan see Salmon
fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our
shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich
side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack
Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He
is of Chinese origin although his parents were
born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend,
Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent
started fly fishing with me in October 2002."
To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River,
Our Man In Canada Archives