May 8, 2006

Major restoration program aims to return Atlantic salmon to L Ontario

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and Australian wine maker Banrock Station are collaborating on a major five-year project to help restore native Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario. The species-one of the first in Canada to be eliminated by human activities-has been absent from the lake for more than 100 years as a result of habitat loss during the period of early settlement.

Banrock Station is contributing $1.25 million to what is considered the most significant freshwater restoration project in North America. It is the largest investment outside of Australia for the company, which has been supporting wetland and native species restoration projects within Australia for more than 15 years, including a successful 3,400-acre wetlands restoration project.

The LCBO will be contributing approximately $250,000 over five years from its Natural Heritage Fund to the Atlantic salmon restoration project. The fund, supported by sales of cloth Envirobags in LCBO stores, is used to sponsor improvements to Ontario natural habitats.

The project will improve Atlantic salmon habitats in Ontario rivers and streams emptying into Lake Ontario. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), its partners and volunteers from local communities will release millions of fry, yearlings and fingerlings over the next five years into selected spawning streams to build a self-sustaining population of the prized fish. The first release of fry, into the Credit River in Mississauga, Duffins Creek in Pickering/Ajax and Coburg Creek in Northumberland County, will begin the week of May 8th, 2006.

The goal of the Ontario Atlantic salmon restoration program is to have a self-sustaining (i.e. naturally reproducing) population in Lake Ontario by 2020. The three waterways noted above will be the initial target of the recovery effort. It is hoped that over the course of the project, up to six or eight locations will become Atlantic salmon home streams.

The 81,000-member Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) will be another key partner in the project, as members work to revitalize river banks and improve the salmon's natural habitats. OFAH executive director Mike Reader said his organization and the entire outdoor community are involved in the Atlantic salmon restoration project because it helps protect Ontario's biodiversity, improving coldwater streams and ultimately increasing outdoor recreation opportunities.

In addition to stocking the streams, habitat rehabilitation is the second of the program's three main components. Although greatly improved over the past 30 years, the tributaries of Lake Ontario continue to require restoration efforts. Participation by landowners and community groups will be solicited for local stewardship activities such as tree planting in riparian areas; debris cleanup; bank stabilization; wetland protection; cattle fencing; and modification or removal of dams and ponds. The program's third phase will consist of continuing monitoring and research.

While Banrock Station Wines and the LCBO have provided the core funding, resources and expertise are also being contributed by the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association, Trout Unlimited Canada, Sir Sandford Fleming College and a number of regional conservation authorities, as well as MNR and OFAH.

More information about the program will be presented at public meetings and on the following Web sites: www.bringbackthesalmon.ca, www.atlanticsalmonontario.ca.

Banrock Station was the second wine producer in the last month to announce its involvement in conservation activities in Ontario. Three Thieves, a California winemaker, is adding its support to that of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the LCBO's Natural Heritage Fund and Ducks Unlimited (DU) to create a wetland at the Kortright Centre for Conservation near Toronto. The TRCA, along with DU, will construct two ponds to expand on the existing wetland, providing an improved habitat for frogs and other wildlife.

The new Kortright Centre wetland will serve to protect three important frog species in Ontario: the Spring Peeper, the Gray Tree Frog, and the Wood Frog, nicknamed "the bandit" because of its distinctive mask marking. This ties in with the company's recent introduction of a new environmentally-friendly package for its Bandit brand of wine.

The North American launch of Bandit 250mL single-serving mini Tetra Pak packages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio were was held at the LCBO's Summerhill store in Toronto. Three Thieves is allocating a portion of sales of the new wines at the LCBO to the Kortright Centre habitat creation project.

These wines are part of a growing number of innovative packaging alternatives in the beverage alcohol industry designed to reduce packaging waste.

Banrock Station has also chosen Ontario for the global launch of its wines in environmentally-friendly Tetra Pak containers. The company has introduced an Unwooded Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Shiraz in one-litre Tetra Pak containers.

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