Towards the development of a fisheries management plan for FMZ 18

Lester et al. (2003) identified the necessity for a change in the spatial and temporal scale for the management of Ontario’s fisheries resources. In 2005, the Ministry began implementation of the Ecological Framework for Recreational Fisheries Management in Ontario to ensure fisheries resource sustainability and to optimize angling opportunities. The approach described in the “framework” is consistent with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) strategic direction as outlined in “MNRF Horizons 2020” (OMNR, 2015a) and with the principles stated in the Provincial Fish Strategy (OMNRF, 2015b).

Fisheries Management Zones (FMZs) were created based on biological, climatic and social factors to establish the landscape for fisheries management. This is a core component of the ecological framework, resulting in the creation of 20 FMZs.

In addition to the FMZs, the ecological framework also emphasizes enhanced public input and involvement in fisheries management. The FMZ 18 Fisheries Advisory Council was initiated in 2008 as a mechanism for stakeholder engagement in the planning process. Members of the FMZ 18 Advisory Council played a critical role in the development of this draft plan by identifying goals, objectives and management strategies and actions. The FMZ 18 Advisory Council that contributed to the development of this plan included representatives of the following organizations and First Nation:

  • Algonquins of Ontario
  • Canadian Flyfishing Magazine
  • Carleton University - Institute of Environmental Science and Department of Biology
  • Conservationists of Frontenac Addington
  • (online forum)
  • lake associations
  • Land O’Lakes Tourist Association
  • Leeds Grenville Stewardship Council
  • Muskies Canada – Ottawa Chapter
  • Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association
  • Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters – Zone F
  • Ottawa Fly Fishing Society
  • recreational and competitive anglers
  • Renegade Bass
  • tourist operators

Purpose and scope of the plan

The FMZ 18 Fisheries Management Plan was developed by the MNRF with input and advice from the Advisory Council. The planning area is all of the FMZ 18, including waters of the Rideau Canal Waterway.

The overall goals of the fisheries management plan are:

  1. To protect ecosystem, species and genetic diversity within FMZ 18.
  2. To optimize social, cultural and economic opportunities and values derived through the biologically sustainable use of aquatic resources.

The plan identifies management challenges associated with the recreational fishery, but also with the limited commercial fishery present within the zone. The plan addresses these management challenges through the establishment of specific management strategy goals and objectives within the context of sustainable resource management. The intent of the plan is to monitor the various fisheries for sustainability and quality and to ensure angling opportunities are maintained into the future. This balance is based on analysis of fisheries data and collaborative discussions with members of the public, government and partner agencies, First Nations and Aboriginal communities and non-governmental agencies.

In addition, the fisheries management plan identifies strategies and actions to meet these goals and objectives. The plan also focuses on enhancing, promoting and maintaining open communication between government agencies and stakeholders by providing a framework for the coordinated and cooperative management of the fishery. The plan is a dynamic document designed to be flexible and adaptable to a wide range of future conditions. It will be reviewed as new information becomes available, or new management issues arise.

The objectives of the plan are to:

  • protect and enhance the biological integrity of the aquatic ecosystem
  • promote the sustainable utilization of fisheries resources
  • develop a greater knowledge of fish populations, fish habitat and aquatic ecosystems
  • describe the existing conditions of the fish community to establish a benchmark of ecosystem health
  • provide a framework for fisheries management
  • rehabilitate degraded fish communities and fish habitat, for self-sustaining, native stocks
  • promote public awareness, appreciation and understanding of fisheries resources and the aquatic habitats on which they depend
  • involve organized angling associations, environmental interest groups and the general public in fisheries management activities

The FMZ 18 Fisheries Management Plan will guide the management of the fisheries resources of FMZ 18 and its goals, objectives, successes and future direction will be reviewed, as information from subsequent cycles of the Broad-scale Monitoring (BsM) program becomes available.

Description of FMZ 18

FMZ 18 (Figure 1) covers an area of approximately 2.5 million hectares (25,000 km²) and includes approximately 135,500 hectares (1355 km²) of water. It spans three MNRF administrative districts within Southern Region: Kemptville, Peterborough and Bancroft and borders the Ottawa River to the north; and Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to the south, the latter two which are managed by MNRF’s Lake Ontario Management Unit. It includes urban areas such as the cities Ottawa, Kingston, Belleville, Cornwall, Brockville, Hawkesbury and the towns of Clarence- Rockland. Smaller communities located in this zone such as Napanee, Trenton, Alexandria, Carleton Place, Gananoque, Smiths Falls, Cloyne, Denbigh, Ompah, Plevna and Perth are also in close proximity to a large number of waterbodies (Figure 2). According to a recent Statistics Canada census of 2006, there were approximately 1,500,000 people residing in the area which encompasses FMZ 18.

multicolour map showing Pembroke, Bankcroft, Peterborough, Kemptville districts and FMZs.

Figure 1: Map of FMZ 18 showing adjacent fisheries management zones and names of contributing OMNRF Districts (Kemptville, Bancroft and Peterborough)

multicolour map of municpality boundaries in FMZ 18

Figure 2: Upper level municipalities and towns found in FMZ 18

All of FMZ 18 is contained within two ecozones, Canadian Shield and Mixedwood Plains (Figure 3). The Canadian Shield ecozone is characterized by an abundance of shallow soils (e.g. coarse loam), impermeable bedrock, and rolling terrain which create ideal conditions for surface water features (e.g. lakes, rivers, wetlands and streams). Eighty- eight percent of FMZ 18’s lakes, ponds and rivers are found within the Canadian Shield ecozone. In comparison, the eastern portion of the zone is characterized by soils composed primarily of clay, loams, and sands. These soils and the flat topography have created many slow-moving, turbid streams and rivers (OMNRF, 1987). As a result, areas outside of the Canadian Shield tend to be dominated by streams, rivers and wetlands as opposed to lakes.

FMZ 18 has approximately 135,500 hectares of lakes, ponds, streams and rivers, including 871 named lakes. The zone has three main watersheds (from west to east) the Mississippi, Rideau and South Nation Rivers which are connected to most of the zone’s largest waterbodies. Within this zone, seventeen lakes are greater than 1000 ha and they represent approximately 25% of the total water area. Other significant rivers in FMZ 18 include the Skootamatta, Raisin, Napanee, Gananoque, Tay, Black, Kemptville Creek (Rideau River South Branch), Moira, Salmon, and Cataraqui.

Additional information on FMZ 18 and its fish communities is available in the Background Information to 2014 Fisheries Management Plan for Fisheries Management Zone 18 (OMNRF, 2014).

yellow blue and grey map of ecozone boundaries

Figure 3: Ecozones represented in FMZ 18, showing distributions of mixedwood plains, Canadian shield, and waterbodies.

Guiding principles for developing the fisheries management plan

The following principles of ecology and conduct from the Provincial Fish Strategy (OMNRF, 2014a) provide direction for the development of fisheries management goals, objectives and management strategies and actions.

Ecological principles

Ecosystem approach
Fisheries will be managed within the context of an ecosystem approach where all ecosystems components including humans and their interactions will be considered at appropriate scales.
Natural capacity
There is a limit to the natural capacity of aquatic ecosystems and hence the benefits that can be derived from them.
Naturally reproducing fish communities
Self-sustaining fish communities based on native fish populations will be the priority for management. Non-indigenous fish species that have become naturalized, and are consistent with management objectives are managed as part of the fish community.
Protect, restore, rehabilitate
Maintaining the composition, structure and function of ecosystems is the first priority for management, as it is a lower-risk and more cost effective approach than recovering or rehabilitating ecosystems that have become degraded. Priority will be placed on protecting fish, fisheries and supporting ecosystems and restoration or rehabilitation of degraded systems when necessary.
Fish and aquatic ecosystems are valued
Fisheries, fish communities, and their supporting ecosystems provide important ecological, social, cultural, and economic services that will be considered when making resource management decisions.

Principles of conduct

Aboriginal and Treaty Rights
Aboriginal rights and interests in fisheries resources will be recognized and will help guide MNRF’s plans and activities. MNRF is committed to meeting any existing and future legal obligations in respect of Aboriginal peoples.
Informed transparent decision making
Resource management decisions will be made using the best available science and knowledge in an open, accountable way. The sharing of scientific, technical, cultural, and traditional knowledge will be fostered to support the management of fish, fisheries and their supporting ecosystems.
While the MNRF has a clear mandate for the management of fisheries in Ontario, successful delivery of this mandate requires collaboration with other responsible management agencies and those who have a shared interest in the stewardship of natural resources.

The fisheries management plan is comprised of a series of broader management strategies that reflect management priorities within the FMZ, and each one identifies the management challenges or opportunities, the management goal, the associated objectives and individual strategies (management actions). Specifically, these broader strategies include:

  • walleye and sauger management
  • lake trout management
  • largemouth and smallmouth bass management
  • panfish (yellow perch, black crappie, pumpkinseed and bluegill sunfish) management
  • muskellunge management
  • northern pike management
  • coldwater species (brook, rainbow and brown trout, splake and lake whitefish) management
  • other fish species (forage, coarse, commercial and/or species at risk)
  • commercial fisheries management
  • invasive species and fish diseases management
  • public awareness, education and participation in fisheries management
  • monitoring and assessment
  • fish stocking

Management goals, objectives, indicators, benchmarks, targets and strategies (management actions)

One of the new or enhanced directions with fisheries management in Ontario is that fisheries management plans will be more objective-based and measurable (where possible) than in the past. This approach will more clearly identify what fisheries managers are trying to achieve and will allow both MNRF and the public to assess whether strategies are working to achieve the desired results, and meet the ultimate management goals for the various fish species.

The following sections describe the management goals, objectives, indicators, benchmarks, targets and strategies. Each of these factors will be described so that the reader understands what they mean and how they interact. Where it is applicable to have indicators, benchmarks, and targets, they are found in the Summary Table for each individual species within the plan document.

Management goals

Management goals describe broad future desired states or outcomes that resource managers are trying to achieve, requiring one or more management objectives to be achieved, in order to reach the management goals.

Management objectives

Management objectives describe “desired end results”. Objectives need to contribute to the broader fisheries management goals for the individual species; be consistent with strategic direction and the guiding principles; and where possible, be measurable. Objectives can reflect biological, economic or social considerations. Biological and economic objectives can be quantified and measured, whereas some social objectives cannot be evaluated in a similar manner. In these cases, performance measures will be included in the Summary Tables of management goal, Objectives and Strategies; MNRF will measure success based on feedback from the FMZ 18 Advisory Council and the public.


Strategies are specific management actions that will be implemented, creating results that will lead to the achievement of the management targets and ultimately the management objectives.


Indicators are specific variables that resource managers will measure to determine whether or not they are achieving the management objectives. Indicators are directly linked to the management objectives and are measurable by monitoring programs.


Benchmarks are associated with each of the indicators; they provide a frame of reference that resource managers use to determine progress towards achieving the management targets and ultimately the management objectives. Benchmarks can be used in two ways. They can describe the baseline (current state) or provide a comparative measurement to another known value (e.g. regional average).


Targets translate a management objective that is described in words into one that is described in terms of numbers. It is this number that makes the objective measurable. Since they are very specific measures of an indicator, targets help the public and resource managers understand when an objective is achieved. Targets are critical to determining future management responses. When a target is not met, it implies that the objective is not being met and management actions may need to be taken to achieve it.

If an objective is not being met, assessment will be taken to determine the factors that may be responsible. Where appropriate, management actions will be taken to work towards achieving the objective. There may be instances, however, where the factor(s) responsible for the failure to meet an objective are beyond the scope of fisheries management.

Regardless of whether an indicator is measured at, above, or below the target, a formal review of the objectives and management actions associated with that target is undertaken. The review may suggest that the management objectives and actions remain the same or that they be modified. This review process supports the adaptive management approach and confirms that fisheries management plans are expected to be flexible and dynamic, and may be amended if required.

Fish habitat management

Achievement of the species specific objectives of this Plan is dependent on suitable quality and quantity of fish habitat. Suitable habitat to support healthy fish populations is a necessary requirement to ensure that fish populations can be managed to provide social and economic benefits in a sustainable manner. The Advisory Council and MNRF felt that fish habitat in general, would require substantial improvements on a number of waterbodies and on a zone-wide basis overall, due to multiple stressors which have had impacts on fish habitat, or which have the potential to negatively affect fish habitat. Development activities including agriculture/farming, hydroelectric development, shoreline/cottage/urban developments, forestry, roads and water crossings, and mining have the potential to reduce fish populations below acceptable or sustainable levels by degrading or destroying fish habitat and further increasing exploitation through increased access.

The following activities currently impact fish habitat and have the potential to cause significantly more impacts as new development pressures are created.

  • Shoreline developments, new road networks in more remote areas (forestry/mining) and water crossings in general, can all result in the significant removal of shoreline buffers, and in some cases, the loss of access to critical spawning habitats.
  • Poor agricultural/farming practices, in addition to removal of critical shoreline buffers through shoreline development, also cause significant nutrient input (leading to eutrophication) into adjacent waterbodies.
  • Waterpower production impacts are related to management of head pond levels, the provision of downstream water flows and levels, and the restriction or elimination of fish passage. Water management planning in recent years has resulted in the recognition of fish habitat as an important value which must be taken into account when balancing the interests of various users.

The protection of fish and fish habitat is a responsibility of the federal government. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) utilizes the Fisheries Act to protect fish and fish habitat, and ensure the passage of fish is consistent with fisheries management objectives. Section 35 of the Fisheries Protection and Pollution Prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act prohibits a person from “carrying on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery” unless authorized. Serious harm to fish is defined in the Fisheries Act as “the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat.

DFO has developed a Fisheries Protection Policy Statement to provide guidance to DFO staff and partnering regulatory agencies when administering the Fisheries Protection Provisions of the Fisheries Act. The goal of the Fisheries Protection Policy is to provide for the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries.

Environment Canada is responsible for the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposition of a deleterious substance into fish-bearing waters.

Ontario and DFO have developed agreements and protocols to ensure the effective protection and management of fish habitat including the “Fish Habitat Referral Protocol for Ontario, 2009”. The protocol will be updated to reflect recent changes to the Fisheries Act.

In addition to the federal Fisheries Act, Ontario has a number of provincial acts and regulations that address the protection of fish habitat and sustainability of fish populations including the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, Public Lands Act, Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA), Planning Act and Endangered Species Act (ESA). MNRF also has a number of guidelines (e.g. Forest Management Guide for Conserving Biodiversity at the Stand and Site Scales) and tools such as work permits, water management and forest management planning, LRIA approvals, ESA permits and agreements and the lakeshore capacity model. In addition to addressing impacts to fish habitat, these tools also allow MNRF to consider the impact of development on fish populations.

Current management direction

At a provincial level, fish habitat protection is identified as a goal under Ontario’s Provincial Fish Strategy: Fish for the Future (OMNRF, 2015b), which provides strategic level direction for the management of Ontario’s fisheries resources. One of the goals established for the management of the fisheries resources in Ontario is:

  • healthy ecosystems that support self-sustaining native fish communities

Specific fisheries habitat management objectives described to meet this goal are:

  • protect and maintain aquatic ecosystem diversity, connectivity, structure, and function, including fish habitat
  • restore, recover or rehabilitate degraded fish populations and their supporting ecosystems, including fish habitat
  • anticipate and mitigate or adapt to large scale environmental changes and minimize cumulative environmental effects

This direction is also reflected in Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy (Ontario Biodiversity Council, 2011) which identified as one of its goals, to protect, restore and recover Ontario’s genetic, species and ecosystem diversity and related ecosystem functions and processes.

The FMZ 18 Advisory Council recognizes and supports the ability of the existing provincial and federal legislation and guidelines to protect fish habitat in FMZ 18. Species specific habitat management strategies were also created during the development of the plan, which will help achieve the objectives and ultimately the goal, for each fish species.

Climate change

While the habitat issues discussed above have the potential to directly impact fish habitat, climate change is an issue that has the potential to significantly alter fish habitat in the longer term. Under a warming climate scenario it is expected that fish communities will be significantly altered, with species that currently dominate fish communities being replaced by other species better adapted to warmer conditions. In order to understand and adapt to changes in fish communities brought about by a changing environment, it is essential to broaden the focus of fisheries monitoring from the traditional species-focused approach with an emphasis on managing exploitation, to using a broader, ecosystem-based approach which monitors changes in fish communities and trophic structure across the landscape and over time. The FMZ 18 Advisory Council endorses the BsM program and feels that its fish community based approach will provide essential information for managing exploitation in the short term and fish community changes in the longer term, at a zone-wide, landscape level.