MNRF withdraws support of fish hatchery egg collection
By Chad Ingram
Published Jan. 8, 2019
Updated Jan. 9, 2018
The Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association is hoping the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will revisit its decision to cease its assistance in an egg collection program that supplies eggs for the Haliburton Fish Hatchery.
The ministry has helped with the effort for the entirety of the hatchery’s existence, or just more than 20 years, but the association was recently informed that assistance would stop. The hatchery stocks the county’s lakes with thousands of fish each year.
“They provide the knowledge, and they provide the equipment,” said HHOA president Larry Hewitt, explaining that equipment includes large boats and specialized netting. “The whole system.”
Hewitt told the Echo the process is not a large draw on the ministry’s resources.
“It’s only two days a year, for a couple of people,” he said. “Dollars and cents-wise, it’s not a big thing.”
Fish grown in the hatchery have a much better chance of surviving than those in the wild.
One of the species produced in the hatchery is the Haliburton Gold lake trout, an ice-age species of fish that exists in just a few of the county’s lakes and has been designated as a heritage species.
According to the HHOA, in the wild, only one or two per every 1,000 eggs will survive to become a trout measuring eight inches in length, while in the hatchery, some 650 per every 1,000 eggs will accomplish the same feat.
Along with its stocking activities, the association provides tours of the hatchery to the public – “We encourage people to come in and learn about the life cycle of fish,” Hewitt said – and educational information for anglers. For instance, while early in the year only about 20 per cent of trout caught are likely to be female, by September, about 80 per cent are likely to be. Obviously, removing too many females from area lakes can be detrimental to the local fish stock.
If the MNRF does not reconsider, then Hewitt said the association would need to fundraise for a new boat suitable for egg collection, and other equipment.
“It’s forcing us to go beyond where we want to go,” he said, reiterating the association is run by volunteers.
“If we don’t have eggs, we can’t raise fish,” he said.
The association intended to send correspondence to Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott, who is also a cabinet minister in the Ford government.
The Echo asked the ministry if his was a province-wide directive or local decision within the Bancroft District of the MNRF, and why the decision had been made.
“To bring consistency in the ministry's approach to wild egg collections in support of the Community Hatchery Program administered by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Bancroft District staff will be transitioning the responsibility of the Haliburton Gold lake trout egg collections to the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association fish hatchery starting in the fall of 2019,” reads a response from MNRF communications staff. “MNRF will continue to support the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association in building their knowledge and capacity consistent with the approaches of other community hatcheries so that they can fully take on this role next year by conducting the egg collections themselves or contracting out the working under a licence from the ministry.”