Toronto Urban Fishing Ambassadors
When you decide to take a stand for something that you are truly passionate about, and you are concentrating your efforts on fighting to retain your long established rights, you don’t expect to be presented with a golden opportunity to become part of creating something new, something better. Toronto Urban Fishing Ambassadors came in to being as a positive, ongoing legacy of the struggle against the sudden threat of losing public fishing access along Toronto’s harbour front, lake shore and public parks. This Urban Ambassadors project strives to protect and promote urban fishing across the Toronto area, mentors fishermen both young and old who want to learn how to fish responsibly, and educate local fisherman and international visitors about the world class fishery that’s available right here in downtown Toronto.
Now for a little urban fishing history lesson….
When Harbourfront Centre staff discovered an old Toronto Port Authority rule requiring posted signage for fishing areas across the Toronto Waterfront, we assume that they didn’t really give it much thought before acting. Enforcing this old regulation would be cited as the justification (without Toronto Port Authority’s knowledge or agreement) for banning fishing, and that would be the end of urban fishing in Toronto. Pike fishermen on the sidewalk at the Portland St. slip were suddenly confronted by Harbourfront Centre security and the Police Marine unit was called in. A well regarded, professional sports fisherman taking a break from the Toronto Sportsman show, found himself confronted by the Police Marine unit at Ontario Place. (A location that he had fished at, on a regular basis since childhood). He was ordered to stop fishing and to leave the area immediately.
Public fishing access had effectively been terminated without notice or discussion. No advisory signs were posted, no public announcements were made. If you were over 65 and had young grandchildren, you didn’t need MNR fishing permits to spend an hour together catching Pan fish down at the waterfront. But, suddenly you were at serious risk of a getting hit with a $2,000 fine for an unsigned restriction.
A small but determined group of concerned Toronto fisherman got together online, started to grow in numbers and quickly spread their call to action across the social media sites and fishing forums. A phone call and email campaign was initiated to reach out to and inform as many people as possible of the apparent loss of fishing access in Toronto, and to question those in authority on who and what was behind the “ban”.
Ontario Place management learned from a newspaper request for a quote on “their” fishing ban that the Marine Police unit were enforcing a fishing ban, and had ordered a fisherman to leave Ontario Place property.
It seems that no one at Harbourfront Centre had informed the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) of the fishing ban being enthusiastically implemented in their name by citing one of their old rules. The TPA must have been shocked and confused to be on the receiving end of a lot of irate phone calls and emails asking why they had banned fishing in Toronto, when, of course, they had done no such thing.
Some much needed common sense was brought to this chaotic situation by the Toronto Port Authority. The TPA immediately issued a press release clearly restating their pro-fishing stance. They also made it clear that only the TPA would decide how and where to enforce TPA rules. Shipping channels, obvious no fishing locations such as the Island Airport, and industrial areas at the Portlands (the original focus of their rule) would be out of bounds in the interest of safety. But there would be no widespread fishing ban across Toronto being enforced by third parties quoting old TPA rules.
Ref: TPA Press Release
Ontario Place management also issued a statement confirming that they had no fishing restriction policy in place, and would continue to allow fishing along the Ontario Place northern shore line, at least until such time as any new demolition or construction work commenced.
Loophole closed, time to move forward!
In a bid to engage Toronto City Council to act against this apparent corporate takeover of public access to the city’s waterfront, Toronto City Councillor Paula Fletcher put forward the “Gone Fishing” motion at City Hall. The motion required the city to take steps to protect public fishing access to the waterfront and to promote fishing as a Toronto recreation and urban sport opportunity. While the motion was being tabled, the online Toronto Urban Fishermen’s group were asked to avoid any potential confrontations with Toronto Police or Harbourfront Centre’s private security. We duly limited our fishing activities to strictly within the public city parks situated along the central waterfront. Imagine then our surprise and disgust, when two dozen no fishing signs were suddenly installed in the city’s waterfront public parks, just a few days before the fishing motion was due to be heard by council.
But, in a surprising twist, these underhanded tactics, presumably attempting to grandfather the public parks as no fishing zones prior to the motion being debated, proved to be the boost that our campaign needed to reach the broader public. Major players from the Ontario and Toronto fishing, sports and recreation scene now joined the debate, sharing the news, posting petitions and questioning the city’s direction. Under fire, the City Council acted swiftly, the signs were immediately taken down and fishing access was restored across the waterfront, pending the Gone Fishing motion’s proposed summit on fishing access between waterfront stakeholders.
We will post updates on the Toronto fishing summit, and the newly proposed downtown fishing pier, as we get them.
Ref: Toronto Fishing Pier
A new beginning
Through the course of these events and from our dialogue with the various parties invested in fishing and the Toronto parks and waterfront network, it quickly became clear that there was a need for a non-profit organisation focused on promoting the world class level of urban fishing in the Toronto area, while actively mentoring young anglers and their parents on how to get started on a local, low cost, outdoor activity, with no boat or cottage required. The Toronto Urban Fishing Ambassadors were formally created at our inaugural in-person meeting on July 4, 2012 and our local fishing knowledge and expertise was offered, and readily accepted, in assisting with the Catch Fishing Kids’ Day free family fishing events at High Park and Toronto Islands on July 7and 8, 2012.
Toronto Urban Fishing Ambassadors were on hand providing front line assistance at both Ontario Fishing Week events unhooking fish, tying and baiting lines, untangling gear, giving tips and fishing technique guidance to the kids and their parents. Please check out our article and photo gallery from these great Toronto family fishing public events.
As we move forward with our events agenda we will be posting updates and guides for you to follow. In the meantime, keep an eye out for Urban Fishing Ambassadors along the waterfront. If you have any questions on local fishing, just come over and ask!