MNRF looks for fish­ing feed­back

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT DUNN SUN TIMES STAFF

An ex­ten­sive re­view is un­der­way to de­velop a new plan to man­age di­verse fish­eries in south­west­ern On­tario -- an area of in­tense de­vel­op­ment pres­sure which one fish­eries ex­pert says is im­pact­ing fish habi­tat, even in Grey-Bruce.

A pub­lic “lis­ten­ing ses­sion” is sched­uled for Nov. 30 in Walk­er­ton at the Best Western from 7 to 9 p.m. It’s for the pub­lic to raise is­sues with the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry con­cern­ing fish­ing and re­lated habi­tat.

“These are called lis­ten­ing ses­sions for a rea­son,” said MNRF part­ner­ship spe­cial­ist Craig Todd, in an in­ter­view Tues­day. He works in Owen Sound, which is part of the south­west­ern On­tario zone the min­istry calls Fish­eries Man­age­ment Zone 16.

“We’re lis­ten­ing to what the com­mu­nity and the pub­lic want to tell us about FMZ 16, how it’s be­ing man­aged: good, bad, ugly.”

In gen­eral, the plan changes could see the min­istry al­low more fish­ing in ar­eas that are thriv­ing, add pro­tec­tions where it’s not, and could lead to min­istry part­ner­ships with groups like out­doors clubs to re­vive flag­ging fish pop­u­la­tions or re-estab­lish them, ac­cord­ing to back­ground from the min­istry.

A tar­geted stake­holder meet­ing will be held ear­lier on the same day as the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, all part of what’s be­ing called an “en­hanced en­gage­ment ap­proach,” to gather in­put into rules gov­ern­ing the zone.

“I’ve sent out in­vi­ta­tions to ev­ery sin­gle com­mu­nity group that I can think of in Grey and Bruce that has any po­ten­tial in­ter­est in stream or fish habi­tat man­age­ment,” Todd said.

He said he has sent out in­vi­ta­tions to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties, First Na­tions, out­doors groups and many oth­ers to try to en­sure the min­istry has as many con­cerns and views to con­sider as pos­si­ble.

“And then we’re go­ing to sit down with those re­sults and see what we can come up with as a man­age­ment plan that surely doesn’t meet everybody’s in­ter­est but cer­tainly man­ages the fish­ery in a re­spon­si­ble, long-term per­spec­tive.”

The zone in­cludes Grey-Bruce in an area from Ni­a­gara Falls and Wind­sor in the south, Tober­mory to Oril­lia in the north, and to just east of Toronto. It’s the largest and likely the most di­verse zone for fish habi­tat and fish species, Todd said.

A num­ber of con­sul­ta­tion dates are set to cover other parts of the zone, in Al­lis­ton Nov. 28, London Dec. 5 and Burling­ton Dec. 7.

“It’s some­thing that we re­ally have to take a hard look at be­cause this is an area that’s un­der sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment pres­sure and will be as the pop­u­la­tion in On­tario con­tin­ues to grow,” Todd said.

There’s pres­sure on wa­ter­courses and on fish­eries, with in­va­sive species and species at risk, he said. “It’s very com­pli­cated, it’s very di­verse.”

Even Grey-Bruce is feel­ing it, in terms of cot­tage con­ver­sions into larger, year-round rather than sea­sonal dwellings along shore­lines and rivers. This puts pres­sure on fish habi­tat, he said.

More broadly, fish­ing pres­sure, in­va­sive species and cli­mate change are all ex­am­ples of stres­sors on fish­eries, MNRF back­ground in­for­ma­tion says.

Ul­ti­mately, how the MNRF man­ages the fish­eries is what the ex­er­cise is all about.

If there were a pri­or­ity the min­istry has missed, such as an im­por­tant stream not get­ting enough at­ten­tion, “We may be able to work with part­ners on work­ing to im­prove habi­tat in those ar­eas,” Todd said.

There may be is­sues in the zone that haven’t had the at­ten­tion they should have, he said, or things go­ing well which should be shared else­where. Reg­u­la­tion changes may or may not be needed.

What is heard will help the MNRF fo­cus its “man­age­ment ef­forts or maybe fo­cus our fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties or how we fo­cus our work with part­ners. At this point it’s a blank slate,” Todd said.

The min­istry’s cur­rent plan was de­vised in 2008, when the num­ber of fish­eries man­age­ment zones was re­duced from 36 to 20. The new plan will set a long-term strat­egy, though when the next up­date would be un­der­taken he didn’t know.

The min­istry’s fish­eries man­age­ment fol­lows a cy­cle of planning (set­ting ob­jec­tives and strate­gies), im­ple­ment­ing strate­gies, mon­i­tor­ing and re­port­ing, and eval­u­at­ing suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry.

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