The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) completed a comprehensive review of its provincial bait policies to help improve the management of bait (i.e. baitfish and leeches). The intent of the review was to evaluate options that minimize the ecological risks associated with the use, movement and harvest, while also reducing the complexity of current management regimes and increasing business certainty to the bait industry.
MWC submitted the following in response to the request for input:
June 20, 2017
To: Mr. Scott Gibson, Senior Fisheries Biologist
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Policy Division
Species Conservation Policy Branch, Fisheries Section
300 Water Street
Peterborough, Ontario K9J 8M5
Re: Strategic Policy for Bait Management in Ontario – EBR Registry Number: 012-9791
Dear Mr. Gibson,
Muskoka Watershed Council is supportive of the Province’s interest in modernizing and strengthening the Strategic Policy for Bait Management in Ontario (EBR). We offer our initial comments below for your review.
Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) is a volunteer-based non-profit organization with the mandate to champion watershed health. MWC is comprised of representatives from a wide range of stakeholders, including municipal and provincial governments; lake associations; academia; and other community interests from across our watersheds. In Muskoka, where there is no conservation authority, MWC provides a coordinated and science-based voice on issues affecting the environmental quality of our watersheds.
Maintaining Muskoka’s vibrant, healthy and natural environment is critical while also recognizing that the area’s continued prosperity is dependent on the continued health of our watershed. From an economic perspective, MWC notes that Muskoka benefits significantly from recreational anglers and the health of our freshwater ecosystems is essential. MWC supports the Strategic Policy for Bait Management in Ontario given that it seeks to limit the spread of invasive species and the transmission of diseases while preserving the natural integrity of our waterways.
While we agree that limited movement of live bait can best be managed by regional restrictions, we suggest that regions within which bait may be transferred be determined on a watershed and/or a bioregional scale, rather than the large “Bait Management Zones” as proposed.
With regard to purchased bait, we suggest that the bait must initially come from a lake in the same watershed/bioregional scale where it will be sold, and, in turn, be sold for use within the same watershed/bioregional scale within which it was bought. Essentially, we recommend that “one plays with the bait where one pays for the bait”. This approach may support the goal of limiting non-native species and diseases, and, in turn, limiting the spread of unwanted detrimental invasive species.
MWC appreciates the provincial effort to engage Ontarians on potential changes to its Strategic Policy for Bait Management in Ontario and we look forward to working collaboratively with all levels of government and with the community to implement strengthened bait management policies, where possible. We thank you for the opportunity to contribute our considerations.
Lou Guerriero, Chair