U.S. taking action over fish dispute

The U.S. government has taken action regarding an ongoing dispute between Minnesota and Ontario over fishing restrictions in place on Rainy River and Lake of the Woods.
Betty Wires, Lake of the Woods supervisor for the Ministry of Natural Resources, said it appears the state has opted to ignore the Minnesota-Ontario Boundary Waters Fisheries Atlas dated July, 1998.
“It is one of the areas where you look at in terms of supply and demand and demand outstrips the supply,” Wires said of the province’s decision to regulate walleye/sauger fishing on Lake of the Woods.
“Ontario believes in conservation but it’s now going to be a federal issue and it will be up to the governments and how they look at it,” she added.
Ontario passed a law which restricts non-resident anglers from keeping any walleye or sauger caught on the Ontario side of Rainy River and Lake of the Woods unless they are staying at least one night at a Canadian resort.
The regulations do not apply to other species such as northern pike, muskie, bass, and crappie.
But that law has drawn the ire of Minnesota anglers and resort owners and, as a result, the U.S. Trade Representative office has opened an investigation into complaints on behalf of those resort owners.
Minnesota is arguing the restrictions violate long-standing international treaties and trade agreements.
Wires said Minnesota and Ontario usually have a “good working relationship,” and meet on a yearly basis to share information and see where they are at in terms of their fisheries.
Wires also noted the fish stocks on Lake of the Woods are “discrete” and, due to its vast size, often vary from different sections of the lake.
Minnesota could look at trying to negotiate with Canada or ask for a U.S./Canada committee to look at finding a solution under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Minnesota also has the option to pursue a free trade challenge before a NAFTA trade panel or the world trade court in Geneva.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. said if negotiations fail to resolve the border fishing dispute with a year’s time, the trade rep can–and will–respond by imposing tariffs on Canadian products.
But Washington is expected to delay its case for 60 days while Ontario completes the provincial election slated June 3.