The Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association (HHOA) is navigating how to manage its Haliburton Gold trout program with less direct government support.

The HHOA discussed the topic during its annual general meeting Dec. 8. Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) staff have previously managed egg collection for the association’s hatchery program but the practice is set to end next year.

President Eric Christensen said the change puts a lot on the generally older volunteers of the association.

“You’re asking people that on average are 65 years of age or more, to hop in a boat in the middle of the night to do that work,” Christensen said. “It’s strenuous work … You’re putting a lot of senior people at risk.”

The HHOA fish hatchery has stocked the heritage species Haliburton Gold lake trout for years with provincial support. Due to cuts, the MNRF moved to pass responsibility for collecting the eggs to the HHOA. It originally planned to do this in 2019 but pushed the move back to 2020 instead.

However, the HHOA is trying to stop that. They want local MNRF staff to continue helping, even if at the HHOA’s expense.

“We are in negotiations with the local office to work through how we can make that happen,” Christensen said.

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Community Hatchery Program Coordinator Matt Burley spoke at the meeting. The association provides support and helps allocate grant funding on behalf of the MNRF. Christensen asked Burley about directing provincial grant dollars towards hiring MNRF staff.

Burley said contractors could be hired – which other hatcheries have done – but that would not result in any extra funding.

“We don’t give them any more money than what the formula allows for,” Burley said. “You would have to use the money you’re allocated for operational.”

But the Community Hatchery Program is offering new training materials, including video guides.

Still, Christensen said they will use the year they have to try to maintain MNRF staff support.

“It’s very important,” he said. “The technical advice and everything is very important to have.”

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