By Dryden Observer Staff
The Kenora District Camp Owners Association (KDCA) has expressed outrage in a recent letter to Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, Kathyrn McGarry, over the province’s plan to extend ‘Border Waters’ fishing rules for non-resident anglers north into the entirety of Fisheries Management Zone 5.
Under discussion for the past several years at the KDCA member sessions, the issue seems more rooted in social dimensions than a matter of fisheries biology. Since the late 1990s, Border Waters fishing regulations have halved the daily allowable catch for non-residents in an attempt to ease fishing pressure on lakes from day-tripping US anglers within a certain distance from the US border. The rules, however, created an imbalance within the region, as more southern tourism operations in the region found themselves at a disadvantage to their northern counterparts, only able to offer their non-resident guests a daily allowable catch of two walleye (possession limit of four).
KDCA President Jacqui Haukeness says the rules, effective Jan. 1, 2018, have taken them by surprise and show an alarming lack of regard for the Northwestern Ontario economy, tourism industry jobs and public and stake holder consultation.
“The MNRF has not provided any of the current Broadscale Monitoring Data to support such a change — not even to the FMZ5 Fisheries Advisory Council,” said Haukeness in the letter to Minister McGarry. “The most recent Public lnformation Sessions on fisheries planning for Eagle/Wabigoon/Dinorwic Lakes showed the public does not support regulations targeting non-resident anglers. ln fact 82 per cent of the respondents did not support this option in Eagle Lake Summary Results, and 75 per cent did not support this option in the Wabigoon/Dinorwic Lake Summary Results.
Haukeness says she believes the MNRF’s move to homogenize the rules throughout the zone is less about science and more about ‘levelling the playing field’ — though she adds it will only serve to put a greater number of tourism operations at a disadvantage.
“Levelling the playing field —yes, the MNRF has actually used that phrase,” said Haukeness in KDCA’s letter. “Moving the Border Waters boundary has just moved the imbalance to the FMZ5/FMZ4 boundaries- creating an inequality where there is no non-resident day trip problem — the issue that Border Waters was intended to solve.”
The KDCA says the MNRF seems unresponsive to the importance of non-resident angling tourism in the Northwest which they say accounts for $256.8 million in tourism spending per year, $136 million in taxes and supports up to 4,500 jobs.