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"They banned it in 1972, when they realized this fish was in serious trouble and the Danes were murdering 'em off Greenland and on the high seas," said Ted. "In those days you seldom saw commercial fishermen dropping nets for mackerel, only salmon. Then they put the ban on. The next thing you know they were selling mackerel licenses like crazy."
"They went from 90 nets to 600 in no time," said the old man. "The salmon didn't know the difference."
"They've made some strides," said Ted. "They got limits now, and since last year they make you tag every fish that's sold, and that's good. And they forced the Danes to limit their netting on the high seas. But they've got to do more. I think it should be classified as a game fish and not a commercial fish. There just aren't enough salmon to go around—to the angler, to a guy who wants to net, to the commercial fisherman, to everybody. The main consideration should be: How can we get the most revenue for this fish if it is in limited supply? And it is. For Ted Williams, who loves this fish, it's fast coming to the point where there won't be enough fishing to warrant the time and expense."
"They say there's been more fish caught on the rivers in this system last year than any year in the past 10," said the cigarette smoker.
"Yeah, they're making a big deal out of that now because the commercial fishermen want the ban lifted. But one good year doesn't reverse a trend," Williams said. "This is a cyclical fish. They've got to give it three or four years, 10 years, before they can say a trend is set. It's still a long way from what it used to be."
"Will they get the ban lifted?" the smoker asked.
"Looks that way, on a select basis. They're talking about a quota of 18,000 fish for commercial fishermen on the Miramichi [now in effect]. But they're also going to allow the incidental catch in the Bay of Shalla and in the Bay of Fundy, and in the end it's going to be as screwed up as it was in 1972. I think it's wrong."
"How about the Indians? They got carte blanche to net 'em...and sell 'em, too."
"Well, I'll tell you," said Ted. "Poaching is wrong no matter if it's the Indians doing it or the locals, but at least it's against the law. Commercial fishing will be legal and it'll set the river back 10 years. They'll abuse it, abuse it, abuse it. There'll be just as much poaching, and then the Danes'll say, 'What the hell,' and they'll be netting 'em like crazy again, and that'll be the end of the salmon."
The man in the baggy shirt said the commercial ban has gradually made the anglers the enemies of the locals. He said he had experienced their resentment: ice picks through his tires, holes knocked in his boat. "You had a canoe wrecked last year, didn't you, Ted?"