The recent native commercial fishing agreement signed by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Saugeen Ojibway First Nation (SON) includes provisions that concern the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), local stakeholders such as the Sydenham Sportsmen’s Association (SSA), and recreational anglers in general.
“Once again, the province has failed to consult BEFORE signing an agreement on behalf of the people of Ontario, which will impact on the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular and the larger recreational fishery on Lake Huron, said OFAH Executive Director Angelo Lombardo. “The provision in the agreement that allows for the netting of fish in close proximity to the mouths of tributaries could negatively affect the spawning runs of several fish species, and the expansion of the commercial fishing area into both Colpoy’s and Owen Sound Bays could pose a serious threat to public safety and impact negatively on conservation of the resource. Regardless of the fact that negotiations on such agreements are confidential, given the upheaval that has occurred in the past, and the inclusion of new provisions in this agreement, at the very least the government should have met with all affected parties prior to signing the new deal.
The wildly popular Salmon Spectacular attracts thousands of participants each year, generates considerable revenue that benefits local businesses, the municipality, the Fish and Wildlife Special Purpose Account (SPA) and serves as a major fundraising venture for local clubs such as the SSA. Funds from the Salmon Spectacular are directed towards the operation of a volunteer hatchery and stocking program and numerous other conservation projects. The local clubs spend thousands of person hours and considerable money running the hatcheries and stocking fish that form the basis for a thriving recreational fishery. Any agreement that may potentially undermine public safety, the conservation of the resource, or the efforts of these passionate volunteers, deserves careful scrutiny.
“The OFAH has a number of questions and concerns about specific details in the agreement related to implementation and enforcement, said OFAH Provincial Manager of Fish and Wildlife Services Dr. Terry Quinney. “One of our concerns is related to the lack of consideration in the document for other fish species harvested as by-catch by the commercial fishery. We are encouraged that a quota for Lake Whitefish is included in the agreement, but we do not have enough information to determine if the quota is science-based and sustainable. Despite our best efforts, our request to arrange a meeting with MNR staff to discuss our concerns has unfortunately been postponed.