The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is undergoing a comprehensive review of provincial bait policies to help improve the management of bait (i.e., baitfish and leeches). There are five topics being addressed by the policy review: 1) Angler Use and Movement; 2) Parks and Protected Areas; 3) Commercial Sale and Transport; 4) Allocation; and 5) Reporting. The intent of the review is to determine how the ecological risks associated with the movement and use of bait can be minimized to help maintain healthy fisheries across the province, while also reducing the complexity of current management regimes and increasing business certainty to the bait industry. MNRF is not considering provincial scale prohibitions on the harvest, use or sale of baitfish and leeches as part of this review.
The following goals have been established to guide the policy review:
1) Bait is managed to protect the health of aquatic ecosystems.
2) Sustainable use of bait resources enhances the quality of life for Ontarians by providing recreational, social and economic benefits.
3) Bait is managed to conserve the resource and maintain a viable bait industry.
4) Bait management is adaptable, effective, consistent across the province and simple to implement.
The harvest and use of live bait has been an important part of Ontario’s fishing industry for nearly a century and the commercial bait industry employs thousands of Ontarians. In 2013 there were 1159 licensed commercial operators 447 Licenced Commercial Harvesters, 382 Commercial Dealers, 67 Tourist Harvesters and 263 Tourist Dealers.
While the commercial bait industry provides significant benefit to the provincial economy and the recreational fishery, the movement of live bait poses ecological risks related to the spread of disease and invasive species and poses a significant risk to Ontario’s fisheries, protected areas and biodiversity. Recently, management of the bait resource has become more challenging due to new environmental pressures (e.g., invasive species, diseases) that can threaten the health of fisheries and aquatic ecosystems.
This policy proposal addresses the final three topics of the review: Commercial sale and transport; allocation; and reporting. Specifically, MNRF is evaluating potential options relating to the following aspects of the management of commercial bait:
1) The scale at which commercial harvesters and dealers can move bait;
2) Testing programs to screen commercial bait for disease and invasive species;
3) The level of certification and training that should be required by licenced commercial bait harvesters, dealers and their designates in Ontario;
4) Bait harvest in species at risk areas (not including provincial parks and conservation reserves);
5) Storage of commercial bait in Ontario waters;
6) Harvest and storage gear restrictions;
7) Alignment of Bait Harvest Areas (BHA) to other management boundaries;
8) Allocation of bait resources within a BHA;
9) Valuation of the bait resource;
10) Existing commercial bait licence structure;
11) Record keeping and reporting; and
12) Compliance framework.
MNRF has been working with an external stakeholder group (Bait Review Advisory Group (BRAG)) to look at all possible approaches with respect to bait use and movement by anglers, including the status quo. Options have been put forward and evaluated based on how well they meet the goals of the review. MNRF is soliciting feedback to help inform the review and refine the final policy options.