Pelican species declared at risk is 'invasive,' anglers say
President of the Kenogamisis Fish and Game Club says American White Pelican can deplete lakes of fish
The Ministry of Natural Resources is now enforcing specific habitat protection for several species at risk in Ontario — and one of them is the American White Pelican. However, some anglers are concerned the big bird is invading their lake.
The president of the Kenogamisis Fish and Game Club said the population of American White Pelicans on Lake Kenogamisis in the Geraldton area has exploded in the last five years.
New habitat protection for species at risk in Ontario
- The Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle in Lambton County.
- Pale-Bellied Frost Lichen in Renfrew, Lanark and Frontenac.
- Virginia Mallow in the Niagara area.
- American White Pelican, northwestern Ontario.
The pelican was an endangered species in Ontario from 1977 to 2009, but was 'upgraded' to threatened in 2009.
It had habitat protection in a general sense since 1977, but there was nothing precise to describe the habitat areas that were to be protected.
The new regulations, which started July 1, prohibit any disturbance or destruction of habitat within 300 metres of a pelican nesting colony, including water.
Anyone violating the regulation could face warnings or legal charges.
Source: Ministry of Natural Resources
"We view them as an invasive species," Michel LaFrance said. "The amount of food needed to sustain [them] could start depleting our population of fish, and we're scared that it's going to disrupt the natural ecosystem."
Ontario's white pelicans nest primarily on two lakes in the northwest — Lake of the Woods and Lake Nipigon. But the birds can fly hundreds of kilometres away to get food.
MNR biologist Glenn Desy said he's not aware of damage to lake ecosystems and noted the pelicans don't eat a lot of sport fish.
"I think there's a history of misunderstanding of pelican diet, and potential impact to fish stocks in lakes that folks are generally interested in," he said.
Still, LaFrance said he hopes the number of pelicans on Lake Kenogamisis doesn't continue to grow.
The Ministry of Natural Resources can lay charges for disturbing or destroying habitat within 300 metres of a pelican nesting colony.
"Pelican(s) are often viewed as a possible competition for sport fish by some folks, and I think there's a history of harassment and persecution of pelicans because of that," Desy said.
The MNR is also enforcing habitat protection for three other species at risk: Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle, the Pale Bellied Frost Lichen, and a herb called the Virginia Mallow.