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GARDEN VILLAGE – Nipissing First Nation (NFN) remains committed to the stewardship of Lake Nipissing and conserving the walleye fishery. On Monday, August 17th, NFN’s Chief and Council met to review reports and recommendations from NFN’s Natural Resources Department and decided to close the commercial walleye fishery effective at noon on August 22nd. This closure will remain in effect until the end of the 2016 Spring Fisheries moratorium.

“This decision demonstrates our Council’s commitment to taking decisive actions on the recommendations that flowed from our Fisheries staff and from community consultation meetings that were held last fall, through which members strongly suggested that the commercial walleye fishery be closed by August 31st ,” said Chief Scott McLeod.

With over 25 years of experience working Fisheries in both technical and management capacities, Chief McLeod is committed to remaining involved in ongoing discussions and follow up meetings with fishers and the community. He adds, “I have been speaking directly with fishers to inform them of the closure, to encourage compliance, and to let them know that we are actively working to develop plans to mitigate the economic impact of our decision.”

Regulation Changes

Earlier this year, NFN amended its Fisheries Law to reflect the current realities of harvesting on Lake Nipissing, and reiterates its support for the efforts the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is making to actively restrict the recreational walleye harvest in the coming years.

Nipissing First Nation shortened its fishing seasons and implemented regulatory changes this spring in response to the recommendations made at last fall’s community consultation meetings:

  • Extended the spring moratorium on gill netting until the sports fishery season opened on May 16th, as well as a short-term moratorium on the cultural practice of spear fishing in an effort to boost the success rate of this year’s spawn.
  • Expanded regulations for commercial fishers, which include reducing the number of nets permitted from 5 to 3, and changing the allowable net size to a minimum of 3.75” (up from 3.5”).

NFN’s Council supports all of these recommendations, as demonstrated by its decision to close the walleye fishery before August 31st. This effectively reduces the season by more than half – to just over 3 months from the 7 months it was in the past.

Nipissing First Nation has already implemented local job creation initiatives aimed at reducing the dependence on the commercial fishery in order to protect the lake now and into the future. The Council is eager to get to work on some of the medium to long term initiatives suggested by the membership, which include:

  • Reinstituting our fish hatchery on a small experimental scale by hiring fishermen to seed barren spawning grounds and studying the impacts over a number of years.
  • Enhancing training opportunities for staff to strengthen enforcement and subsequent follow up actions.

Collaborative Solutions

The health and sustainability of Lake Nipissing are of paramount importance to Nipissing First Nation and we are dedicated to working cooperatively within our community and with our stakeholders to achieve mutually agreeable solutions to any declines in the walleye fishery.

Nipissing First Nation is aware that some people may not respect the Council’s decision and is working diligently on building stronger relationships with fishers in order to foster the collaborative approach that is required to ensure fairness and compliance with our laws. NFN continues to actively monitor the situation through active patrols and documenting of non-compliance. These efforts are supplemented by an anonymous community tip line. We are also strengthening our enforcement capacity through ongoing discussions with the MNRF and other stakeholders.

A revitalized Restorative Justice Program will hold persons who do not comply with Nipissing First Nation’s Fisheries Law accountable for their actions. Training has recently taken place to prepare community members to conduct Compliance Conferences and Justice Circles, and additional training for new members is being scheduled.

Moving Forward

NFN is working diligently to act upon the will of the community, but we recognize that collaboration is key and that our success will be dependent on our ability to work in cooperation with our fishermen and the community at large. NFN continues to participate in a number of initiatives at local and regional levels to encourage responsible harvesting of this valuable resource by all users. We also continue to work closely with the MNRF and other legitimate stakeholder groups to create awareness and build consensus in order to develop and implement the changes that are needed to conserve Lake Nipissing and the resources it provides for current and future generations.

About Nipissing First Nation – The people of Nipissing First Nation, known as the Nipissings, have lived in the area of Lake Nipissing since time immemorial. Prior to the signing of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, the Nipissings had occupied and enjoyed the lands surrounding the Lake Nipissing watershed for their sustenance and survival through harvesting and other means.

Today, Nipissing First Nation’s mission is to continue to protect our Nation’s inherent rights and to empower the membership to work together is a positive, progressive manner to improve well-being and quality of life, to be socially and economically independent, culturally strong and self-governing.

Contact:
Chief Scott McLeod
Nipissing First Nation
(705) 753-2050 ext. 1237
scottm@nfn.ca

Backgrounder:

Our identity, as the Nbisiing Anishinabek, is inextricably tied to this lake. It has always provided for us, and we depend on it for our future. We are working to remind all citizens of the sacred responsibility we have to harvest responsibly and to leave resources for future generations. Unfortunately, there are people from all communities who choose to ignore that message.

Since 2004, Nipissing First Nation has invested over $3 million of its own source revenue into the health of Lake Nipissing, and will continue to be a fundamental part of its recovery.

Nipissing First Nation continues to regulate its own fishery through assessments, active monitoring, collecting and sharing of harvest data. Further, NFN participates in various assessments and joint projects with the MNRF and stakeholder groups around the lake, such as fall walleye index netting and leading the Lake Nipissing Summits.