Toronto, March 25, 2019 - The Ford government is opening up the Lake Erie fishery
to destructive overfishing and poaching with its "foolish" decision to move a crew
of fisheries conservation officers 50 kilometres inland.
"Doug Ford is sending Lake Erie conservation officers up the creek without a paddle,"
says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "If they're not stationed by the lake,
who's going to enforce the law and stop the kind of overfishing that could lead
to a complete collapse?
"We've seen a lot of foolish decisions from this government, but this one could
win the derby," said Thomas. "Does the Premier have a bunch of cronies who want
to poach walleye? I can't think of any other reason the government would do something
For decades, Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF) conservation officers
have been stationed in the village of Wheatley, which is known as the "freshwater
fish capital of the world."
From their dockside workplace, the officers have kept a close eye on both the commercial
and sport fisheries from Wheatley to Kingsville and beyond. They lay hundreds of
charges annually related to poaching, overfishing, fishing without licences, and
fishing with illegal equipment.
But internal MNRF documents show the ministry is poised to move the Wheatley conservation
officers nearly 50 kilometres inland and tuck them away at an office in Chatham.
"Wheatley is the busiest fresh-water fishing port in the country, " said Thomas.
"Moving the conservation officers so far away is like closing the local police department
and expecting the officers to enforce the laws from three towns down the highway.
"The poachers will be happy. Everybody else will suffer."