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The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is seeking public consultation on two policy options related to anglers use and harvest of live bait in Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves. The policy options are the first two components of a more comprehensive review of live bait in Ontario. Early in 2013 the Bait Review Advisory Group (BRAG) was established by the MNRF. Representing various stakeholders, the BRAG mandate was to review live bait use, movement, and commercial harvest in Ontario. WCS Canada participated in BRAG meetings and policy option evaluations focused on the protection of Ontario’s freshwater fish. BRAG’s stakeholders evaluated several options and often proposed new options.
The use of live bait has been associated with the spread of invasive plant, freshwater fish, and microscopic species. Ontario has 48 species that can legally be harvested and used as live bait by anglers or commercial harvesters. In Ontario, the link between commercially or personally harvested bait and invasive species has been established by scientific research. Commercially purchase bait was found to be contaminated with invasive species, native non-bait and species-at-risk. It has also been proven that anglers lack the knowledge to correctly identify invasive or non-baitfish. MNRF announced its first regulation of live bait movement to control the spread of freshwater fish pathogens like Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) after t was discovered in Ontario in late 2007.
The review of live bait regulations in Ontario is crucial, because Ontario is leading Canada in number of invasive species: 441 as of 2012. Ontario also has the highest number of invasive species fish, 26 as of 2012, twice the number of Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta. Interestingly, British Columbia banned live bait about 75 years ago, and Alberta 50 years ago. The last province to follow suit was Quebec, where live bait has been banned for over a year.
Recently, the Invasive Species Act received its second reading at Queens Park on the way to being accepted. Once introduced, the act will focus on the prevention and eradication of invasive species in Ontario. There is ample evidence that live bait in Ontario would help reduce the spread of invasive species. Therefore, to protect Ontario from invasive species and pathogens, and to help eliminate the introduced invasive species, live bait use should bait use should be restricted. However, a ban of live bait use is more appropriate given other Canadian provinces and territories regulations.
This week, until Friday, we have the opportunity to provide comments on these policies, and remind Ontario of the importance of protecting our plants, fish and waterways.
Actions: survey on use and movement of live bait | submit comments on use and movement of live bait | survey on live bait use | submit comments on live bait use
Dr. Cori Lausen and a bat team have headed to the the Flathead River valley in southeastern British Columbia for a four-day BioBlitz in attempt to find out more information.