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Industry challenged to rectify stock depletions: fishing worth $1 billion to the province's economy.

Industry challenged to rectify stock depletions

Fishing worth $1 billion to the province's economy

One of the greatest challenges facing the fishing and tourism-related industries in Northern Ontario is fish stock depletion.

With the immense wealth generated by the fishing industry in Northern Ontario, tourist organizations are calling for more fish hatcheries to prevent further depletion of stocks.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1986, anglers spent more than $980 million on supplies and activities directly related to fishing.

Ontario residents spent nearly $496 million, an amount which translates into an average of $441 per angler. Non-residents parted with nearly $249 million, or $469 per fisherman.

Transportation, food and lodging accounted for the bulk of all money spent, representing 84 per cent of the expenditures of resident anglers and 56 per cent of the expenditures for their non-resident counterparts.

Ted Reed, executive director of the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association (NOTO), said that his association represents more than 1,200 tourism businesses which rely on hunting and fishing as their primary source of revenue.

He said these lodges and fishing outfitters gross more than $300 million annually.

NOTO figures indicate that this amount, combined with the spin-off factor, represents a $1-billion annual industry.

Pete Rysdale, NOTO's vice-president responsible for finance, said that efforts are being made by government and individuals to keep fish stocks healthy, but the work must continue to ensure the industry survives.

He said the provincial government, municipal governments and private operators must make the work a genuine priority.

Joe Cain, manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Municipal Fish Hatchery, concurs.

Cain is manager of the only municipally operated fish hatchery in Ontario. He said communities with tourism-based economies must take a harder look at maintaining and improving their resources.

He explained that tourism is the Sault's second-largest industry, generating approximately $80 million annually. A major portion of this money is directly attributable to the fishing industry in the area.

"The hatchery is a strategic part of that," said Cain.

Admitting that the creation of a fish hatchery is only appropriate for a municipal government to undertake if the venture is economically sound, he said the municipally operated hatchery in the Sault has strengthened the tourism industry in the city by improving sport fishing.

Even though the hatchery is only three years old, he is so confident it will succeed that he credits the city's government for having the "foresight to build the hatchery."

During its initial construction phase, city officials believed the $1.4-million facility would lead to the development of related facilities such as charter fishing tours and a retail outlet specializing in supplies and equipment for fishermen.

Cain insisted that tourism officials in the Sault area have said the hatchery is improving the fishing industry in the area.

Jointly funded from federal, provincial and municipal coffers, the municipal fish hatchery re-stocks Lake Huron with more than five tons of sport fish annually.

The hatchery's goal of restocking 600,000 Chinook salmon has been met, but it has not yet achieved its goal of restocking 100,000 brown trout and rainbow trout.

"We are about 50 per cent there," said Cain.

NOTO president Bill Chambers agrees with Cain that the cost of operating a fish hatchery such as the one in the Sault is enormous. However, he advocates the construction of smaller hatcheries around the province.

As a supporter of the Community Fisheries Involvement Program (CFIP), Chambers explained that hatcheries can be erected to help maintain the fish stocks in the province and create public awareness of and enthusiasm for environmentally sound fishing.

Through CFIP, the Ministry of Natural Resources provides interested parties with up to $5,000 in start-up capital and the necessary advice to construct and support a fish hatchery. The facility is operated locally.

Chambers said he is aware of many successful hatcheries across Northern Ontario which are operating as a result of the program, which began approximately five years ago.

"They have been really successful with the program," he said.

As owner-operator of the Pine Grove Camp in Port Loring, west of French River on Highway 522, Chambers reported that he's had first-hand experience operating a CFIP-sponsored hatchery.

Not only has the hatchery been successful in improving the fish population in his immediate area, but it has raised the public's awareness of a fragile environment.

"It (CFIP) has extended the interest of managing" fish populations to the community, which is a necessary element of maintaining healthy fish populations in Northern Ontario, he insisted.

Rysdale said efforts to maintain a CFIP-funded hatchery in the French River area have resulted in several million eggs being hatched. Admitting that many eggs have also been lost, Rysdale said local operators are still learning a great deal, which will be beneficial in the future.

Rysdale further commented that visitors to his area have already reported better and more frequent catches.

"They said there has been better fishing in the past two years than in the past 10," said Rysdale. "The whole program has been a great success," he said.

The efforts must not cease there, agreed Chambers and Rysdale.

The two tourism officials believe that further efforts, in addition to the creation of fish hatcheries, must be undertaken in order to ensure that Northern Ontario lakes don't suffer any further reduction of fish stocks.

"We have to maintain the success rate for an ever-growing population of visitors," said Chambers

Chambers explained that individuals within the industry have been advocating trophy fishing and catch-and-release programs to further the conservation and maintenance efforts.

"Everybody has to become more aware and involved in management," he said.

Rysdale shares the concern. In a further attempt to maintain and improve stocks in his area, he has undertaken a major project which will include the complete rebuilding of existing spawning grounds and the creation of new ones.

"We are spending about $83,000 on rebuilding the entire shoreline," said Rysdale.

Funding for the Stoney Rapids Project, said Rysdale, was provided by the French River Resorts Association, CFIP and the federal Environment Partners Fund.

The owner-operator of the Meshaw Falls Cottages in Alban said discussions are under way to hire a full-time biologist to research the French River and help develop more efficient ways of preserving the environment of the river through sound practices of harvesting its resources.

Rysdale said funding will be provided equally by government and local outfitters.

"There are two or three (government) departments which have expressed an interest.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Natural Resources is completing what is being called one of the most comprehensive reviews of the commercial fishing industry in Ontario.

Hearings were held across the province by the ministry and it called for input from fish producers, anglers, environment groups, communities and others.

Dr. Douglas Dodge, Great Lakes fisheries co-ordinator for the MNR, explained that no firm recommendations have been made. However, he said the results will be made available once they are deciphered.

"Only the public consultation phase is complete," said Dodge.

PHOTO : Norman "Pete" Rysdale, owner and operator of Meshaw currently rebuilding. The Stoney Rapids project will cost Falls Cottages on the French River, directs attention to approximately $83,000 to complete.

PHOTO : Pete Rysdale, owner and operator of Meshaw Falls Cottages on the French River, stands inside the Pickerel fish hatchery located on his property. The hatchery, which runs from early May to mid June can produce several million Pickerel for stocking.
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Title Annotation:Ontario; includes related article on the province's strategy
Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Previous Article:Mayor believes diversification puts dent in city's old image.
Next Article:Canada's operators losing share of U.S. tourist dollars.

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