By Phil Morlock, Director of Government Affairs, CSIA/CNSF

Ontario MNRF recently issued a press release to announce the November 10, 2020 conviction of a professional fishing tournament organizer for not following licence conditions. The finding resulted in a $9,000 fine and suspension of the organizer’s Ontario fishing licence for five years. MNRF reported Conservation Officers received ‘tips’ about a large number of dead bass from a mid-July, 2019 tournament held on the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque, Ontario. 

What the press release did not mention is credit for this investigation and conviction goes to a number of tournament anglers who reported serious concerns to authorities about poor fish handling practices at the weigh-in site and a large number of dead bass being discarded in a dumpster. Conservation Officers recovered 195 dead bass with 188 in plastic bags in the trash. The Ontario Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act prohibits allowing fish or game to spoil or to be wasted. 

Some anglers competing in the event reportedly decided to take the unusual step of transporting and live releasing their fish after the weigh in, rather than allow them to remain with the organizer as is the usual practice. 

Tournament anglers are very familiar with proper live release practices, but this has not happened by accident. Extensive scientific research by Dr. Bruce Tufts and his team at Queen’s University, sponsored by Shimano Canada, has led to the implementation of ‘best fish handling practices’ at fishing tournaments across North America for over 15 years. Fish mortality has been greatly reduced through the Water Weigh-In System where fish are kept in carefully monitored, well oxygenated water throughout the entire event process — even while being weighed. Hundreds of thousands of tournament-caught fish have been released alive and unharmed back to their home waters, through the use of the current generation of live release boats, originally invented by Tom Brooke and Don Lloyd at Shimano Canada.

People who fish and hunt have been the leaders in fish and wildlife conservation and science-based sustainable resource use for well over a century. Anglers have always supported regulations limiting their activities in order to care for the fishery. The anglers who stepped forward in July of 2019 to report their concerns to Ontario MNRF, and the C.O.’s who responded and followed through with the investigation leading to the conviction of the event organizer, acted in the true spirit of conservation ethics.

They deserve the respect and thanks of all who care about our natural resources.

Editor’s Note: Berkley Canada cut its sponsorship ties with the B1 series in the year prior the events mentioned in this article.

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