Managing our fishery a real success story

The number-one reason anglers from around the world come to Sunset Country to fish is because of the top-notch fishing opportunities that exist here.
There is nowhere on Earth that offers the diversity of options for freshwater fishing that can be found right here.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) deserves much of the credit for its contributions to making many of the fisheries in the province the best they have been in decades.
Talk to old-timer anglers who have spent years on Lake of the Woods and they’ll tell you the walleye fishing has never been better.
Recently, the MNR broke the province down into zones that are similar in geographic appearance and have fisheries that share similar characteristics. Fisheries Management Zones (FMZs), so to speak.
The purpose of these zones is to manage the fisheries sustainably within the biological potential of the zone.
The Sunset Country region has been broken up into two zones—4 and 5. Zone 4 to encompass an area north of Kenora, Dryden, and Ignace, stretching from the Manitoba border east to the Savant Lake region.
Zone 5 covers the area to the south, from the Manitoba border to the Atikokan region.
Since these zones were established a few years ago, advisory councils have since been formed to meet on a regular basis to discuss regulations, issues, angling opportunities, and fisheries management.
These advisory councils are made up of people from communities around the zone, representing various interest groups within the sport-fishing and commercial fishing industries.
The council reps bring to the table invaluable experience and advice, and are expected not only to represent their group’s interests but to ensure their community is kept informed of all discussions.
I have been invited to be part of both the Zone 4 and Zone 5 advisory councils. The Zone 4 council began about a year-and-a-half ago, in the fall of 2009, while the Zone 5 council started this past October.
It is an interesting experience, to say the least. There are individuals on both councils who represent the tourism industry, the local angling community, the bait fish industry, the commercial fishing industry, aboriginal communities, environmental groups, as well as the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (O.F.A.H.)
The council is organized by the MNR and several MNR employees are involved in the committee, as well, representing district managers to biologists to fishery technicians.
It goes without saying that bringing all these people together to talk about the fisheries in Sunset Country raises several different opinions regarding most topics. But this is a positive exercise in making sure all interest groups have a say in the direction that potential regulations options and fisheries management may take in the zones.
Another positive aspect to these councils is that it is people from the region who are involved in all the discussions, not people who live thousands of kilometers away.
Across the province, and especially here in the north, fish are an integral part of the economy. The sport-fishing, tourism, and commercial fishing industries rely on the health of our fisheries to be successful.
About 1.4 million anglers fish in Ontario each year, spending about $2.3 billion. So it is in the best interest of everyone involved that these waters are protected—all the while continuing to offer the great fishing opportunities we have now.
As these councils move forward, all potential management options in the zones will be presented to the public and everyone will have the opportunity to provide feedback that will be considered by the MNR.
It should be noted these groups are not gathering to close or shut down any fishing opportunities in the region. Rather, the intent is to ensure our fisheries are managed sustainably and reflect the type of experiences we want here.
The councils and zonal concept ensure Sunset Country anglers’ interests are best represented and we will have awesome fishing for years to come.

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