A striped bass is released back into Sandy Hook Bay off the coast of New York in September 2008. Camp owners along Canada's Miramichi River, famous for its salmon, say striped bass are taking over the river and eating the young salmon. Credit: Patrick Horne | AP

Atlantic salmon camp owners on New Brunswick’s Miramichi River are pleading for the Canadian government’s help as an unprecedented number of striped bass are eating young salmon in the river.

The Miramichi Salmon Association has asked the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard for immediate action that it says would save salmon from predatory stripers, according to the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

“We need to get the ecosystem in balance,” MSA president Mark Hambrook said. “Predatory bass have exploded from 50,000 fish 10 years ago to over 1 million today. At the same time, Atlantic salmon populations are in crisis and at historic lows.”

A study 12 years ago showed that 70 percent of young salmon, or smolts, were successfully reaching the sea on their outward migration, Hambrook said. Today, less than 25 percent of salmon smolts are able to reach the sea, he said.

The Miramichi is a legendary Atlantic salmon river, and has long attracted salmon enthusiasts from the U.S. and around the world. The MSA represents 17 camp owners along the river.

The measures that camp owners are seeking to protect the salmon:

— Keep the striped bass fishery open from April 15 until Oct. 15 in non-tidal water and until Oct. 31 in tidal water.

— Increase the daily bag limit on stripers to six fish, and allow anglers to keep two days worth of their possession limit at any one time.

— Allow anglers to keep any stripers longer than 19.5 inches.

— Work with First Nations to allow them an unlimited catch of striped bass in their nets and allow them to commercially sell the fish.

— Allow anglers to keep stripers of any size in freshwater.

Longtime Miramichi guide Mervin Green said the arrival of stripers in certain parts of the river is unprecedented.

“Bass are a warm water fish and for the first time in my 70 years on the river, bass have migrated 80 miles north from the estuary,” Green said. “We’re seeing pools of 100 where there used to be salmon. We haven’t seen any salmon parr since the bass arrived.”

Editor’s Note: BDN publisher Richard J. Warren is past U.S. chairman of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...