Ontario’s fish resources contribute billions of dollars to the provincial economy, employ thousands of Ontarians, act as indicators of environmental quality, and provide wholesome food and recreation opportunities.
The harvest and use of live bait in Ontario has been an important aspect of recreational fishing for nearly a century. However, the movement of live bait also involves ecological risks related to the spread of diseases and invasive species that pose risks to Ontario’s fisheries, provincial parks and conservation reserves, and biodiversity. Over the past decade, MNR has tried to manage the spread of new invasive species (i.e., round gobies) and fish diseases (i.e., Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia [VHS]) based on a reactive approach, leading to a very complex regulatory regime that requires intensive management and has created business uncertainty.
MNR is actively engaging and consulting with stakeholders in the review process, including the establishment of a Bait Review Advisory Group (BRAG) comprised of 13 provincial stakeholders with an interest in bait management to provide advice and perspectives on policy options for future consideration.
The following four goals have been established to guide the development of policy options to reduce ecological risks while ensuring a balanced approach:
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.
A variety of topic areas will be addressed by the review, including: 1) Angler Use and Movement; 2) Parks and Protected Areas; 3) Commercial Sales and Transport; 4) Allocation; and 5) Reporting.
MNR will seek comment on policy proposals in the future as appropriate. Given the scope and complexity of the Provincial Bait Policy Review, it is MNR’s intention to complete this review by fall 2014/winter 2015. The final decision may lead to changes in regulations and/or policies under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Fisheries Act and the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act.