Toronto – Georgian College students surveyed ice fishermen in their fish huts out on frozen Lake Simcoe this past weekend to ask their opinions about the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.
Only 6 of the 20 surveyed were from the Lake Simcoe watershed, but many had been fishing here for years. The Georgian group felt they got a good snapshot of the “man on the ice” opinion with an informal survey. “Most people didn’t know anything about the local issues, but practically everyone felt that new laws should apply equally to residents, cottagers, and large developers,” said Brett Jensen, senior student in the Environmental Techniques and Technology program at Georgian. One person said they thought the biggest fight around the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan would be, “Residential shoreline development issues not being strict, fair or clear.”
When asked, “Do you think new laws should apply equally to big developments and to individual home owners?” 14 of 20 simply said yes. Another three said that new environmental laws should be even tougher for large developments, because their impact would proportionately be larger.
“There’s a disturbingly common theme that people believe that money buys you permission to do whatever you want,” said Claire Malcolmson, Georgian professor, and Environmental Defence’s Coordinator of Campaign Lake Simcoe, who organized the outing.
Some of the things fishermen said: “Having money shouldn’t give you permission to wreck fish habitat, especially residential shoreline development.” “People with money seem to get away with shoreline alteration but their poorer neighbours can’t get permission to do shoreline alteration.”
The surveyors said, in a preamble to a question, “There are a lot of developments planned around the lake, which will add paved surfaces to the watershed. Scientists and the Conservation Authority have said we should not add new paved surface to the watershed, because we now have all that the lake can handle.” They then asked, “Do you think these planned developments should have to follow the new laws for Lake Simcoe?”
13 said yes. Some of those added the following:
“Yes, but there need to be certain timeline for grandfathering. This shouldn’t change anyone’s plans or dreams.”
“Enough marinas!”
“They’ll just do what they want anyway.”
One said no, and anther said they were not informed enough to answer.
Fishermen had concrete ideas about how the government can educate them about fishing responsibly. Chad Paiero, an operator of Lucky’s Sons Fish Hut Rental in Lefroy, said the government should create educational packages to remind people about updated information about fish species, catch limits, and knowing how to identify the year a fish was released to tell its age. It should be something that could hang in every fish hut, put in place by fish hut operators and individuals. Their educational materials should be about WHY you can’t do something, like keep herring, instead of just saying “No” to everything.
When asked, “Do you think we should have laws that restrict the most polluting engines from being on Lake Simcoe?” 13 said yes, and one said no. Suggestions included phasing it in slowly, restricting them at certain times, testing marinas, boats and bilge pumps, monitoring exhaust from boats, limiting 2 stroke motors, and testing older engines for emissions.  
Only 3 of 20 people surveyed knew the province was introducing new laws to protect Lake Simcoe, and two of those knew it because they get information from Campaign Lake Simcoe. Many had something to say about what the government should do, summarized by:
•    More monitoring of laws and bylaws.
•    Control fertilizers, limit where people can build houses.
•    Control phosphorus from farmers.
•    Mimic the Clean Water Act’s new regulations for septic systems and wastewater.
•    The people that are traveling in and out of the watershed should have better information about it.
The comment that might best capture what fishermen want the government to do is “Enhance recreation: Take care of conditions so we can do more fishing and boating.”
“These people clearly love the whole experience, and appreciate that Lake Simcoe’s fish are relatively uncontaminated. They will continue to come, as long as the lake freezes, but they want the fishing to improve,” said Malcolmson.
Photos of the outing are available upon request.
The Province’s last open house on the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is Wednesday, February 25, 2009, from 5 – 9 pm in Newmarket, at 200 Doug Duncan Drive. Everyone is encouraged to drop in to learn about the province’s proposed plans and to make comments at information tables.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)