The future of Haliburton’s unique golden trout species remains uncertain as the collection of their wild eggs was cancelled this year at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association (HHOA).

The HHOA has stocked Haliburton Gold in local lakes for 20 years, according to hatchery manager Randy Charter. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has supported the program with its employees doing the wild egg collection to supply it.

But the MNRF had planned to transition away from that support and train HHOA members to start collecting eggs this year, according to president Eric Christensen. After preparing over the summer, Christensen said they could not come to an agreement with the MNRF on how to proceed amidst the pandemic this fall. He said the MNRF would not provide the collection and the hatchery did not have the resources to do the work, so it was called off.

Christensen said the future of the MNRF’s program participation, which they see as vital, is also uncertain. He said they have tried to negotiate without much success.

“We got nowhere,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we might not get some movement in the future.”

MNRF spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said staff met with HHOA this September to discuss the feasibility of collection this year.

“The HHOA indicated they would be putting the wild egg collections on hold this season,” Kowalski said, adding they are providing an additional 9,000 Lake Manitou Strain eggs to offset the loss.

Kowalski said the transition plan has been put on hold and will be re-evaluated next year.

“The ministry will continue to provide support and training to the HHOA as detailed in the transition plan.”

The MNRF has worked since 2018 to shift its participation in wild egg harvesting for the Haliburton Gold. They had initially planned to complete the transition in fall 2019 but delayed to 2020. The HHOA has protested the change, concerned about the safety of their aging membership doing the labour. Christensen also said they lack the specialized equipment to do the work, estimated at $15,000-$20,000 which they cannot afford.

The cancellation will not impact the Haliburton Gold stocking next year, as eggs are collected more than a year in advance and raised in a hatchery, Christensen said. Instead, the impact will be felt in 2022. But he added there should be no long-term ramifications – if the program can resume safely after this year.

Dysart deputy mayor Patrick Kennedy said the situation is disappointing. He said there is not much cost to the MNRF to support the program.

“It’s cost-effective,” he said. “We need it as a valuable piece of economic development.”

Pandemic hits group

The HHOA is also feeling the pinch from the pandemic hitting its coffers, Christensen said. Fundraising is slow as a result, which is an issue with some expensive repairs needed due to pump failures.

The HHOA is doing some additional fundraisers at its facility, including a raffle draw and an LCBO Bottle Collection Drive. General donations can also be e-transferred to hhoa@bellnet.ca.

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