The harvest and use of live bait has been an important part of Ontario’s fishing industry for nearly a century. While the commercial bait industry provides considerable benefit to the recreational fishery and the provincial economy, 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. Given these environmental pressures (e.g., invasive species, diseases), the management of the bait resource has become increasingly challenging.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has 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. An external stakeholder group (Bait Review Advisory Group (BRAG)) was established at the onset of the review to help provide input and perspectives on all possible approaches, including maintaining the status quo.
As a result of the bait review process and the feedback received to date, the MNRF has developed a Strategic Policy for Bait Management in Ontario that directs how bait will be managed in the future.
The following goals were established to guide the bait policy review and are proposed to be carried forward into the Strategic Policy for Bait Management in Ontario:
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.
This proposed policy addresses the following aspects of bait management in Ontario:
1. Permitted bait species
2. Possession limits
3. Scale of movement of commercial bait (i.e., commercial movement and angler-purchased bait)
4. Use and movement of personally harvested bait
5. Restrictions on where bait can be used or harvested
6. Storage of bait (angler and commercial)
7. Bait use, harvest and storage in Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves
8. Commercial bait operations, including:
g. Harvest in Species at Risk areas
MNRF is now soliciting feedback on the proposed policy.