| Apr 30, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - April 30, 2009 Sunfish regulations going publicby Jeff Green

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources tried to establish catch limits for sunfish in the Ontario fisheries management zone 18 last year.

However, lodge owners in the zone, which covers most of eastern Ontario, including Frontenac, L&A and Lanark Counties', raised such an outcry, with the support of local MPP Randy Hillier, that the ministry eventually backed down.

No catch limits were imposed, and a fisheries management committee was established to look at a broad range of fisheries issues, but their first order of business was to sort out the sunfish issue.

The committee, which is made up of a variety of interested parties, including two people who are involved in fishing tourism, has been meeting for months. They submitted preliminary recommendations to the ministry and now the Ministry has posted two possibilities for sunfish regulations to take effect in 2010 that can be accessed through the Ministry of Natural Resources website.

Public meetings are being held this month and there is an online survey for public comment on the proposed regulations.

One of the possibilities that the ministry is proposing would establish a limit of 50 fish per day and 50 fish possession limit for people holding a sport fishing license, and 25 fish per day and a 25 fish possession limit for those holding a conservation license.

The other possibility that has been posted is a more liberal limit of 50 fish per day with a 200 fish possession limit for people holding a sport fishing license, and 25 per day and a 100 possession limit for anglers holding a conservation license. As well, there would be a prohibition against keeping any sunfish over 20 centimetres (8 inches) long.

For the purposes of these regulations yellow perch are considered distinct from sunfish. The proposal for yellow perch is 50 daily/50 possession for sports licenses and 25/25 for conservation licenses.

The stated objective of the two regulations, according to the Environmental Bill of rights web posting by the MNR is “to increase the proportion of larger sunfish (18cm (7 inches) or greater) in existing bass and sunfish dominated communities to provide associated socio-economic benefits (Aboriginal, Commercial, Tourism, and Recreational).”

Critics of the proposed regulations, particularly the option which carries lower daily sunfish limits, say that the lack of any regulations against keeping larger fish, combined with low daily and possession limits will only serve to encourage anglers to keep larger and larger sunfish in order to have more to eat. This, they say, runs counter to the Ministries' stated objective.

An alternative proposal has been put forward by the Council of the Township of Tay Valley. A resolution was approved by council and circulated to other jurisdictions. It called for a two year moratorium on new sunfish regulations, and during which time a voluntary prohibition on keeping sunfish that are 20 cm. or longer along with the completion of an economic impact study of new catch regulations for sunfish. The Tay Valley resolution was well received by neighbouring municipalities, and was endorsed by North, Central, and South Frontenac and Addington Highlands among others.

The Ministry of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on the proposed sunfish regulations. Open house style meetings are scheduled in Ottawa on May 4 (Nepean Sportsplex) and Kingston (Legion Hall on Montreal Street) between 4 and 9 pm, and on May 11 at the Northbrook Lion's Hall and May 12 at the Legion Hall on Beckwith Street in Perth between 4 and 9 pm.

An online survey is posted at http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/270140.pdf.

The public comment period ends on May 26.

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