Anti-Hunting Groups Bear the Truth About Future of Fishing

Schad project manager declares he would quit if fishing was on agenda

By Todd Hamilton, TFN Reporter
Reprinted with permission from The Fishing News

Bear today, coho tomorrow?

A recent Ontario government decision to ban the spring bear hunt has the fishing community worried it will be the next target. However, Dave Cotter, project manager for the Schad Foundation, the multi-million dollar company that bankrolled the anti-hunting campaign, said he would quit his job if fishing or hunting continued to be cut.

"I'm a hunter, I'm a fisherman, I'm a Northerner, and if I thought that (further restrictions) was the case I would not be part of this, I'd quit the next day - it's as simple as that," he said.

Rick Morgan, executive director of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, sees things much differently. "This is simply the thin edge of the wedge," he said. "In the past the (hunting) seasons have been based on the conservation of the species. What we have now is anti-hunters who've gone the political route and they've purchased ads in newspapers and targeted particular MPPs with losing their jobs in an election if the government doesn't roll over and do what they want."

"With what they've been able to pull off they'll apply the same tactics to get rid of other activities - like fishing."

Jim Grayston, executive director of the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters (NOTO), said the Ontario government has opened a Pandora's Box which will allow animal activist groups to now target activities such as sport fishing.

"Certainly their decision to end the spring bear hunt has given these groups some momentum and also allows them to do a better job at fund-raising by showing the government flinched. When the government flinches, obviously you've opened some doors."

The ban came after an advertising campaign that targeted sitting Conservative MPPs in the Hamilton-Niagara region was undertaken by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). It was funded by the Schad Foundation, a multi-million dollar plastic injection moulding business in Milton, Ontario owned by tycoon Robert Schad.

Grayston said that because the campaign had pictures of baby bears and targeted an area where few people had knowledge of the bear hunt, the anti-hunters had no problem swaying public opinion, even though the scientific evidence was sketchy.

While adamant that the Schad Foundation will not be seeking an end or restrictions to fishing, Cotter said they will remain active in ecological issues and will seek further changes in the outdoor community.

"Anybody can interpret this any way they want - and a number of people have in ways that I don't understand how they came to that interpretation, but that's not my intention and it's not the foundation's intention," he said.

"These were the first really active public things we got involved in. We intend to be very pro-active and you are probably going to hear about us more - but we don't intend for that to be a negative thing."

The Schad Foundation spent over $2.7 million on ecological issues in 1997, funding groups such as the Sierra Club, Orphaned Bear Rehabilitation Centres, Friends of Clayquot Sound, World Wildlife Fund Canada and IFAW.

While Cotter said they had a number of ethical issues they have chosen not to launch campaigns against, he did hint that biodegradable fishing line was an area of concern.

"We're fully supportive of hunting and fishing being part of Canada's heritage and important for the future of tourism and the north."

For angling groups, Cotter's assurances have a hollow ring.

Rick Amsbury, executive director of the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association and Canadian National Sportfishing Foundation, calls the campaign a distinct threat to the sport fishing industry. "That is the first time in Ontario we have had a large, influential organization directly threaten sport fishing," he said. "We view that as an extremely serious precedent and we have strong reason to believe that those actions will be followed through on in the near future by either the Schad Foundation or other natural rights organizations."

Michelle Kilburn, president of the Competitive Angling Network of Canada, echoes Amsbury and Morgan's belief that the campaign is just the first step in the animal rights movement's agenda to eliminate fishing in Canada.

"I do see it as potentially a threatening thing in the future and I think it's just one of a process of things that activists are trying to do," she said. "They're going from Ontario now to other provinces and I think they have an agenda that will eventually include sport fishing."

IFAW's Ontario representative, Rob Sinclair, said the decision is not a harbinger of doom for the sport fishing industry and called comments to the contrary, "unfettered garbage."

Sinclair added that the ban affects very few and that sportsmen organizations are just using the ban as a scare tactic to unite the hunting and angling community.

"The truth is the debate is on a very narrow part of hunting - this is not going to lead tomorrow to the end of moose hunting or the end of deer hunting or certainly not the end of fishing."

The impact of the ruling, however, is already being felt economically in the angling community, specifically outfitters and lodge owners who survive on hunting and angling businesses. Grayston said the spring bear hunt was a $17 million industry directly, with another $17 million in indirect benefits and its impact on the closely related fishing industry will be equally dramatic.

The decision so angered American hunting advocate and rock star Ted Nugent, he urged American sportsmen to boycott all Canadian fishing lodges and outfitters. Nugent has since rescinded that call, citing that the boycott would be more disadvantageous to Canadian small business owners than the government.

Roxann Lynn, owner of Moosehorn Lodge near Chapleau, Ontario said she has been devastated both economically and emotionally by the decision.

The seven-cottage camp has been in the Lynn family for over 40 years. Except for a modest pension, the business is their sole means of income, approximately $40,000 with only $10,000 coming from anglers.

"In a three-week period I would bring in 34 hunters - that brings me approximately 25 percent of her annual income derived from the hunt would not be enough to keep keep the camp open to anglers. The real cost, she said, is the emotional toll taken on by her family.

"I'm so busy trying to fight this thing on the phone and I've got three young kids. I don't even have time for the kids anymore. I've had to use some of their education money to buy groceries and pay our bills."

Lynn said that for her the Schad Foundation's offer to assist lodge operators to change their camps from fishing and hunting to eco-tourism or adventure tourism is not viable.

"Just because you've got bush doesn't mean you've got some place people want to go. Where our camp is we've got fish, we've got bears and we've got blackflies and not much else." 

This article was taken from pages 14-16 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Sept/Oct 1999 Issue


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