Conservationists looking for a fight over fishing in High Park

David Kearney had a special load in his Jeep last week; about 1,500 worms.

The slimy critters are a key element of a big weekend for Kearney and David Clark, who are directors of the Toronto Urban Fishing Ambassadors (TUFA), a group that promotes recreational fishing in Toronto and the GTA.

The couple was preparing for Family Fishing Week, an annual event during which the provincial government allows fishing without a license to encourage more Ontarians to take up the hobby. TUFA provides equipment, instruction and bait for fishing learn events throughout the week, hence the large number of worms.

Angling is allowed almost anywhere in Toronto, and Clark says it’s a great way for city dwellers to spend time outdoors and connect with nature. Grenadier Pond in the west end’s sprawling High Park, where TUFA is scheduled to host the Urban Fishing Festival on Sunday, is a great place to land panfish like bluegill, pumpkin seed and bullhead, as well as larger species like the bass, Clark said.

“These are families who are involved in their local parks and watersheds,” he says.

But not everyone is hooked on the activity. The High Park Natural Environment Committee (NEC) opposes the fishing festival and urges the city to stop fishing in Grenadier Pond for good.

The volunteer-run organization has been pushing for a Grenadier fishing ban for at least a decade. arguing that it harms the sensitive ecosystem of the 160-hectare park, which both the city and the province have designated as environmentally significant.

“Conservation at Grenadier Pond is seriously undermined by fishing.” said Lenka Holubec, member of NEC.

Although Clark says the vast majority of anglers return their catch, Holubec says studies show released fish can still die at a high rate, and hooking top predators like bass and pike disrupts the Grenadier’s food chain. .

The urban canal is home to several species of turtles, including the snapping turtle, Midland painted turtle and Blanding’s turtle, and they and other animals can be injured or killed if they swallow a fisherman’s hook, Holubec argues. His group also says the lines get caught on branches near the pond and harm birds, while people fishing can trample vegetation that harbors nesting sites.

NEC also complains that although the city agreed to restrict fishing to the southeastern shores of the pond, many anglers do not stick to the designated area.

Holubec argues that with Toronto and the rest of the world losing natural spaces to climate change, the city needs to get serious about conservation.

“Biodiversity is in serious decline,” and environmentally sensitive lands “will succumb to degradation” if not protected, he said.

Clark is unmoved by NEC’s arguments. He says he is “beyond frustrated and angry” at having to respond to the group’s criticism over the past 10 years, and accuses its members of trying to “demonize” a harmless recreational activity.

“There is no problem with fishing in the park,” he said, noting that fishing in urban areas is supported by all three levels of government as a way to promote recreation and conservation. It is also supported by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, which has partnered with the province and federal government on a recreational fishing plan for GTA.

Clark said he’s not sure how many people will attend the Grenadier event on Sunday, but he estimates that on an average day, dozens of people fish in the park. With those numbers, the practice is easily sustainable, he said, especially since most people practice catch-and-release.

While Clark doesn’t deny that hooks and hooks can occasionally harm animals like birds, he said a bigger threat is people feeding the ducks and geese in High Park, causing them to swarm around fishermen in search for food.

But perhaps most importantly, Clark argues that people should be allowed to fish in the Grenadier because of High Park’s 150-year legacy as a place for all Torontonians to enjoy.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have cabins and are contained in the city and can’t enjoy a pond to fish in or a park to ride a bike in,” Clark said. Groups like NEC “are trying to make (High Park) a wildlife sanctuary…which it shouldn’t be.”

The city shows no signs of considering a Grenadier fishing ban.

“The City of Toronto supports recreational fishing throughout the city,” it said in a statement. a spokesman declined to comment on the potential threat to wildlife, but said anyone fishing is advised to cast their line with caution, be mindful of nearby people and pets, and take lines and hooks home to dispose of them. safe way.

Local Councilor Gord Perks (Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park) wants the city to conduct an in-depth ecological assessment of the park to determine how much, if any, fishing can be done without damaging the pond. He said current rules allowing the activity are “not based on sound ecological research.”

In the meantime, he said the municipality should do a better job of enforcing existing restrictions on which parts of the pond fishermen are allowed.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter who covers city hall and city politics for the Star. Contact him via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


Conversations are the opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not endorse these views.

Leave a Comment