The Hastings Park Conservancy recently sent the following correspondence, in response to imminent plans for an urban fishing project involving the Sanctuary within Hastings Park.
To: Vancouver Park Board Commissioners
March 22, 2013
Re: Fishing in the Sanctuary at Hastings Park
We are writing to inform you of the Hastings Park Conservancy’s concerns and position regarding the proposal to introduce sterilized rainbow trout into the Sanctuary at Hastings Park.
To begin with, we would like to thank you for involving us when the initial concept to introduce urban fishing to Hastings Park, early in 2012, was being considered. However, after a couple of site visits and exchanges we had not heard anything about the proposal until very recently, really via rumour that the project was going ahead. We subsequently contacted Dave Hutch and he provided us with an update.
Moving forward, we are very concerned that the program is planned to go ahead this month and that fishing lessons are already advertised in the Hastings Community Centre’s Spring Brochure.
Overall, we are concerned that the introduction of trout and urban fishing will inevitably change the nature of the Sanctuary and its ability to support migratory and resident birds, particularly during the spring and summer nesting season(s). The community has worked very hard over several years to keep the Sanctuary as a natural, ecological area.
Over the last 10 years, as native plantings have matured, the Sanctuary has become a beautiful, serene environment, valued by its ability to provide a quiet, green place in the midst of a predominantly urban landscape. More than 130 bird species have been recorded in the Sanctuary by naturalists and local residents who visit the park on a regular basis.
In response to the proposal, several environmental groups, ecological experts and individuals have raised concerns with us regarding the introduction of sterilized rainbow trout into the Sanctuary, including representatives from the Stanley Park Ecological Society and Nature Vancouver.
Some of the key issues include:
- The north end of the upper pond, where it appears that the fishing pier will be located, is, at present, relatively inaccessible to people and dogs. As a result, it is used as a refuge for nesting ducks and other aquatic birds. Installation of the pier and the associated increase in noise and human activity will eliminate this refuge.
- The feasibility of the ponds at Hastings Park Sanctuary to sustain trout. Water quality in the ponds, particularly during periods of low rainfall and warm temperatures when water levels drop, may be detrimental to the trout, resulting in fish kills. We are aware that a similar trout fishing program exists at Como Lake, which has tributaries and outlets which the Sanctuary does not have.
- The potential hazards of abandoned fishing line on aquatic birds and other wildlife.
- Effects of people who bushwhack their own trails through important shoreline habitat, away from the designated fishing area(s), resulting in adverse impacts on resident and nesting birds and the overall biodiversity of the Sanctuary.
- The potential interaction between fish-eating birds, including cormorants, gulls and mergansers, and trout fishers.
- The potential interaction between the trout and other species that rely on aquatic prey. (We understand that this has been a big problem in other areas of B.C. where, for example, stocking lakes has resulted in declines of some key invertebrate and amphibian species in those cases.)
- What will happen to the dragonfly and damselfly populations in the Sanctuary?
- How will the introduction of trout affect the ultimate re-introduction of salmon to the day lighted stream through Hastings Park?
Based on the above concerns, we want to inform you that the Hastings Park Conservancy (HPC) Executive Board has taken a position against the introduction of trout into the Sanctuary. We will advise our members and recommend a motion to this affect at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on April 28, 2013.
A compelling reason for not introducing a pier and trout into the Sanctuary is that these are not features that are included in the Master Plan for Hastings Park.
In preparation for our AGM and membership discussion, we ask that the HPC Executive be:
- Provided a copy of the results from the environmental assessment.
- Provided findings on potential effects that the introduction of trout fishing will have on the environmental and social values of the Sanctuary.
- Advised of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)’s role and involvement in this project?
- Provided information on who is paying for the capital costs to build the fishing platform and the maintenance costs associated with the program?
- Informed regarding the role of the Park Board with this project and the extent to which it will be involved in future plans related to the Sanctuary and Hastings Park in general.
- Given an update on the City’s long-term goal to day light the stream through Hastings Park and return salmon to the stream.
In the meantime, we respectfully ask that current plans to implement the “Learn to Fish Program” in the spring of 2013 be put on hold pending further study and consideration of the effects of this program on the Sanctuary.
HPC strongly supports an increase in opportunities for East Vancouver residents, especially local children, to access Hastings Park and to have recreational programming activities available for them. However, the proposed project involving the creation of a trout fishery in the Sanctuary is not in keeping with the Park Board’s commitments to protecting migratory birds and other wildlife.
The Park Boards’ website states: “Migratory birds are to be protected under the Species at Risk Act and the International Migratory Bird Treaty. These are administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada.” Under the B.C. Wildlife Act, it is an offence to possess, take, injure, molest or destroy a bird or its egg, or an occupied nest. We therefore ask that you review these protections as well and report back to us on your findings.
The sanctuary is a very small area and it is extremely fragile. We do not want to see the beauty of it interrupted or destroyed. We ask that, rather than transforming the Sanctuary into a trout fishing destination, that it be valued, respected and sustained for the enjoyment of all. The Sanctuary is a very unique area in East Vancouver – a very small and extremely fragile area. We do not want to see its beauty or its ability to support birds and other wildlife destroyed.
Accessibility, enhancing participation, active living, and connecting people with green spaces are essential components of what we and our community want for Hastings Park. We want to create the opportunities for more people to discover and learn about the Sanctuary and to understand that the PNE is actually a park – Hastings Park. We want to provide people with the opportunity to enjoy green space in their own neighbourhood.
In closing, we welcome representatives from the City and Park Board to join us at our AGM on April 28, 2013, at the Hastings Community Centre (Community Hall) at 2:00 pm. Please rsvp to the undersigned at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing back from you in a timely fashion.
On behalf of the Hastings Park Conservancy
cc: Dave Hutch,
Eric Harms, Hastings Community Association
Stanley Park Ecological Society
Friends of Hastings Park