Sunset Country Resort Owners are not happy with new regulation.
This just was pushed out to all Sunset Country Members in NW Ontario by Gerry Cariou, Executive Director. He definitely doesn't pull any punches:
Tourism Really Does Matter - Except to the MNR
The saying goes "be silent and let your results do the talking" and when it comes to the tourism industry in Sunset Country, this saying certainly applies. Year in and year out, the economic impact of tourist operators and in our towns, retail and services businesses, is apparent for all to see. Yet despite its economic impact, tourism still doesn't get the respect it deserves by many decision-makers and nowhere is this more apparent than those at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
To politicians and MNR bureaucrats, tourists don't have a vote so that makes them an easy target and in a situation unique to Sunset Country, many tourism operators are themselves, American citizens, again with no vote and thus, of little concern to a politician's re-election chances. Unfortunately, these factors lead to bad policy in many cases and the recent decision by MNR to target only non-resident anglers in FMZ 5 with more restrictive regulations on walleye, amounts to throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Let's be clear, everyone, including tourist outfitters, are in favor of conservation and protecting our fisheries for the long-term. If this regulation is necessary then it should be implemented. But only if the scientific data supports it and in the case of this new regulation in FMZ 5, the science (if it exists) is certainly questionable - or at least, the interpretation of that scientific data is questionable. We don't know either way since few if any recent fishery studies have been conducted.
When it comes to the tourism industry their business depends on a healthy fishery. However, the recent decision by MNR to limit the daily walleye harvest in FMZ 5 for non-resident anglers only is neither good policy or, based on any recent scientific evidence. It is also a clear example of the lack of respect that MNR has for the tourism industry.
When decisions like this are made, the decision-makers need to have evidence in support and they have to ensure they look at the whole picture - not just isolate one-user group while excluding all others and implement a punitive regulation that will have a negative impact on tourism. It is hard to believe the Ministry stating it's a "conservation measure" when the proposed regulation applies to one user group.
The purported rationale for the new regulation coming out of MNR is based on data from 2013 that shows non-resident anglers account for 68% of fishing license sales in FMZ 5. From this data alone, and in absence of any recent scientific data e.g. creel surveys, population sampling of fish, etc.. the MNR makes the simplistic conclusion that non-resident anglers must account for 68% of the total harvest.
As someone with a background in statistics, I can assure you implementing a regulation like this based solely on fishing license sales data is neither scientific nor academically acceptable. The old saying "statistics don't lie but liars use statistics" is definitely applicable here. Using the percentage of licenses sold does not consider other factors or gives us an accurate assessment of who is taking what. These include:
Length of Stay: Looking only at the percentage of licenses sold to different user-groups does not take into account how long each non-resident angler is fishing in the region (on average 5 days per year) compared to resident anglers (who fish here all spring, summer, fall, and winter). You do the math, while there may be fewer licenses sold to residents, they fish many more times a year than non-residents do on a per capita basis, so their percentage of the total harvest on a per angler basis is higher and likely much higher than a non-resident.
Angler Success: It also ignores "angler-success" - how successful each individual license holder is at actually harvesting fish. The logic here is that resident anglers, for the most part, live here all year-round and know the lakes much better than non-residents. As a result, it's plausible to conclude they are probably more successful than non-residents in finding and harvesting fish. Couple this with the fact that on a per angler basis, resident anglers fish significantly more days than non-residents, it is pretty easy to do the math and conclude that on a per capita basis, residents harvest more fish per angler and they harvest them more often.
It's Not About "Conservation": It makes very little sense then if "conservation" is the reason this policy was introduced, why would only non-residents be targeted? While no one from MNR would ever admit it, the reason is because it is politically expedient to do so, as none of the voters are affected and (even though they have very little idea as to the true numbers of fish out there), being seen as doing something about the "problem" is all that really matters. Citing lousy or dated statistics to support the regulation only makes things worse, and reveals for all to see, the "attack at all times" philosophy the MNR has in regards to tourism.
Unfortunately, what doesn't seem to matter to MNR is the potential negative impacts this has on our regional economy, specifically the fact that one group is treated differently than another and thus, is exempted from regulations that are being sold as a "conservation measure" and that is a bitter pill to swallow for the tourism industry.
Again, the bottom line here is if it is about conservation, then the regulation should apply to all user groups - not just one that's easy to target. perhaps we should ask MNR why they exclude resident anglers and see what they say. The unfortunate truth is that MNR doesn't really have a handle on fish populations since they still cite creel survey data from 2005 and 2008 at the meetings I attend. Poor science and the misuse of statistical data has brought us to the point where we are now.
We deserve better from MNR, yet the Ministry seems they have no problem using old data, bad statistics, and questionable ethics when they develop their policies. What makes it worse is the fact these regulations always seem to be targeted specifically at the tourism industry and their guests. It must be nice to sit in Ivory Towers and implement policies which affect the livelihood an entire industry. Tourism has been in a tough spot over the last decade and the MNR (and the CBSA) are two Government agencies which have made the situation much worse.
Will this change?
Not likely, in fact, I see the situation getting worse, not better. Until we demand proper science and accountable decision-making by those who work at MNR, the situation will likely stay the same - and that is truly shameful. If the science shows the need for the regulation then fine, implement it. However, this is a shot in the dark by MNR and they missed the target!