By Jennifer Bieman, St. Thomas Times-Journal
An area MPP is calling on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to fish or cut bait when it comes to establishing a fisheries advisory council for Southwestern Ontario.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek wants fishing advocates to have a direct line to the ministry – helping the regulator establish management plans and strategies for the whole region.
Yurek’s request isn’t exactly unheard of. Of the 20 Fisheries Management Zones (FMZs) in Ontario, 13 have advisory councils. But for some reason, Yurek said Southwestern Ontario’s FMZ 16 has been left behind.
“As it stands now, our zone is unable to have people bring forth their ideas and plans for fishing management,” said Yurek. “There’s quite a few groups that are shut out of the process.”
About eight years ago, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry began setting up public advisory committees for each FMZ. The zone system allows the ministry to fine tune fishing regulations and management practices to each region’s specific needs.
The FMZ councils often include angling group members, conservationists, researchers and interested civilians. The ministry’s goal is simple and admirable – to gather input from people with first-hand knowledge of their local waterways and use the information to shape its policies.
Yurek said it is high time the public in FMZ 16, a zone that stretches from Windsor to east of Toronto, gets an audience with the ministry. With any luck, Yurek and the fishing advocates in the region won’t have to wait too much longer.
In a statement, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s press secretary Todd Lane said the provincial department is taking steps to establish a FMZ 16 advisory council.
“Ministry of Natural Resources and Foresty initiated the planning stage for FMZ 16 early this year,” said Lane.
Because of the zone’s sheer size and geographical complexity, Lane said the ministry is putting extra attention into finding council members that represent the diverse nature of the region.
“The Ministry will continue to work towards establishing an advisory council for this management zone that seeks to represent all local stakeholders,” said Lane in a statement.
Yurek is skeptical of the lengthy delay and wants to draw attention to what he calls “a lack of accountability and transparency.”
He said the advisory councils serve an important role, giving civilians a concrete way to voice their concerns to policymakers.
“The best ideas are out there in the general population they just need to have a venue to bring them forward,” said Yurek. “It just needs a effort on the part of the minister to ensure that this becomes a priority.”
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