“In the past, we have closed off the fishway with the consent of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and, where it wasn’t an operating fishway, DFO supported the ability for residents to recreationally fish or angle near that fishway,” says Dagley, longtime secretary of the Queens County Fish & Game Association (QCF&A).
According to Dagley, the DFO has made a decision “to strictly enforce the Fisheries Act,” which mean the department won’t be allowing fishing or dipping of gaspereau within 75 feet of the fishway or roll dam.
The DFO is holding a public meeting about this. It’s set to happen at Queens Place Emera Centre in the community room at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, April 19.
Dagley says he’s been gaspereau fishing for many years, but hasn’t dipped at Milton recently. He’s also a longtime member of the QCF&GA.
The QCF&GA is a Queens County organization that “promotes the conversation of fish, wildlife and habitat,” explains Dagley.
Dagley says the DFO presented the regulation at a Fisheries and Oceans Gaspereau Advisory Committee meeting last fall.
“Members of QCF&GA have consistently asked the DFO to reconsider action, due to conflicting management of other fishway flows,” wrote Dagley in a letter he sent to The Advance.
In the letter, he also wrote there aren’t a lot of other gaspereau-dipping areas in the Mersey River.
Alternatives have been discussed, wrote Dagley.
One being “creating other dipping habitat more than 75 feet below the fishway …” he wrote.
In the past, the fishway was blocked, which means the fishway wasn’t operating, making it okay to fish or dip. The law means the fishway (and other fishways) can’t be blocked.
“They’re saying that it’s the law that all fishways have to operate, and on that basis they say they’re going to enforce the Fisheries Act and won’t allow anyone to block it off,” says Dagley about the DFO’s response.
He adds the department is saying enforcing the law has to do with conserving the gaspereau.
But gaspereau can migrate upstream and have been for about 20 years when the fishway was blocked, says Dagley.
“So fish populations of gaspeau upstream are quite abundant at this point,” he says.
He says the Milton fishway and roll dam is the only pool really suitable for dipping. It’s difficult in other areas.
Bill Wolfe, conservation and protection supervisor for Liverpool’s detachment of the DFO, says the fishway hasn’t been operational for many years.
“Consequently, recreational fishing has occurred in or near the fishway in contravention of Section 27 of the Fisheries Act,” he says.
“Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently made arrangements for the fishway to be fully operational and maintained on annual basis effectively April 10, 2012.”
According to the DFO, fisheries officers will be enforcing the Act’s provisions having to do with fishing in or near the fishway.
Initially, there will be a public-education period, at which time people will receive warnings.
“After the initial period, however, persons observed fishing contrary to the provisions of the Fisheries Act will be charged with illegal fishing,” says Wolfe.
Dagley is encouraging people to go to Thursday’s meeting to hear the DFO’s position.