Awarded to individuals for their contribution to conservation and wise use of recreational fisheries in Canada
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the striped bass was a popular fish that sustained sport and commercial fisheries in Quebec’s St. Lawrence River. That changed in the 1950s when catch numbers started to decline dramatically. By the mid-1960s, striped bass had all but disappeared from the river, and in 1996, provincial authorities declared the species extinct.
The situation might have remained so if not for Operation Renaissance, a program launched in 2001 that has led to the successful reintroduction of striped bass to the St. Lawrence. Many organizations and government agencies have contributed to the program, but it was ecologist Jean Robitaille’s work on determining the cause of the decline that has made the striped bass recovery possible.
By reviewing commercial catch reports dating back to 1945, Robitaille concluded that dredging of the St. Lawrence for commercial transport had led striped bass populations to become confined and concentrated, thus exposing them to overfishing. Based on Robataille’s work, a proposal was developed to reintroduce bass to the St. Lawrence. In 2001, a committee composed of Robitaille and representatives of Fédération québéecoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Université Laval approved the plan and recommended it go ahead.
Since then, Robitaille has collaborated with the federation on the plan’s implementation, not only as a scientific adviser, but also as a spokesperson for raising public awareness and support for Project Renaissance. The results speak for themselves: a provincial monitoring agency reports that it captured more than 5,700 striped bass in 2011, with accidental captures reported by anglers from Montreal Island to the Gaspésie. Best of all, the population is reproducing naturally. The bass are back.