Contaminants threaten future of family fishery

by Sue Yanagisawa, Whig-Standard Staff Writer

ABrighton family is waiting to hear from the Ministry of Environment whether part of their livelihood from commercial fishing is threatened by the old city dump under Belle Park. Harry and William Quick happened to be on the ice checking their first few nets of the season the same day the city was served with notice that it was being sued for allegedly allowing pollutants to seep into the Cataraqui River. Harry Quick said he and his brother were approached by officers from the Investigation and Enforcement section of the ministry, one of whom asked for some of the fish they’d caught. Quick said there wasn’t much in the nets, but he gave them a few bullheads and dogfish [bowfish]. In return, “they gave use the bad news,” and he and his brother released everything they’d caught, although they re-set the nets. “If they’re polluted, what are we foing to do?” Quick asked. “We can’t sell contaminated fish.” About six years ago, the Quicks bought the fishing rights to a long stretch of the Cataraqui River from an elderly Kingston man who had fished there for many years. Harry Quick said his family is licensed by the Ministry of Natural Resources for 400 hoop nets on the river, which they set in the spring and fall each year to catch bullheads, eels and pan fish, such as yellow perch and crappies. They divide the nets about evenly between two sections of the river: upstream, from Washburn – north of Joyceville – down to Kingston Mills; and downstream, between Kingston Mills and the La Salle Causeway. The spring bullhead run isn’t really underway. The Quicks will wait until the ice breaks to set most of their nets, but three weeks ago they put in seven or eight of them early in the shallows near Belle Park. The spot turned out to be directly offshore from where a backhoe and crew suddenly appeared March 13 to build a barrier that the city hopes will block a controversial seep of water entering the river out of the north-east shoreline of Belle Park. Kingston officials were served with notice, March 12, that the city is being taken to court over what’s allegedly leaking from under thepark – benzene, chlorobenzene, ammonia and heavy metals. Janet Fletcher has initiated a private prosecution under the Fisheries Act, alleging that the municipality deposited or permitted the deposit of a “deleterious substance” on the land, which it then failed to prevent getting into fish habitat, contrary to the act. Fletcher and the non-profit Sierra Legal Defence Fund sent water from the seep to a lab and she says the samples proved rapidly fatal to some of the rainbow trout used in the tests. A first court appearance on the charge has been schedules for April 15.Waiting for Analysis

The ministry officer told Quick he expected to have an analysis back on the sample fish by the end of next week. The Quicks haven’t raised their nets since, but Harry Quicj said hoop nets can easily remain in place for three weeks without being checked, because the fish inside can swim freely and remain alive.
When the season gets underway, approximately the first week in April, he said the nets would normally be pulled up and checked every week. He’s hoping the test results will be available by then with a clean bill of health for the fishery. The Cataraqui River isn’t the Quick family’s only fishery. Harry Quick said they set out hoop nets “all over,” in Prequ’ile Bay near Brighton, the Bay of Quinte and Wellers Bay at the west end of Prince Edward County. The Cataraqui River has been one of the more productive fisheries for the family in an industry not noted for big financial returns on labor. He wouldn’t say how much his family has invested in nets and fishing rights on the river. “Too much, right now,” was all he’d disclose. The annual commercial fishing licence from the Ministry of Natural Resources is a flat fee of “one hundred and some odd dollars,” he said, “but that’s not bad.” The real investment is the initial outlay for the fishing rights. “It costs you,” he said. “You don’t buy ’em for nothing.”