The long-awaited report on “Achieving a Sustainable Lake Nipissing Walleye Fishery” authored by Dr. Doris Smith, has now been released. Many months of research, collaboration and investigation with stakeholders, partners and interested parties has produced a number of recommendations or steps forward, in ensuring one of our greatest tourism assets, remains viable in the future.
This has not been an easy subject to tackle. For many years, there has been much discussion on why the fishery has been declining. Over fishing, spiny fleas, cormorant colonies, global warming, nutrient loading, are all terms that we have heard that affect the health of the lake and the fishery. To quote Dr. Smith “effects of environmental stressors to Lake Nipissing are subtle yet broad in scale”. This is the key to the problem.
To point at one single cause for the decline in the health of the lake, would not be realistic or fair. It has been the combination of so many different issues/influences that have resulted in the walleye population decline and the need for a full community effort to reverse the trend. It has become apparent over the years, that no one group can take responsibility for causing the problem and like wise, no one group can be expected to fix the problems.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is in a very difficult position. With limited resources both financial and human, they continue to try and meet all stakeholders needs while dealing with a declining fishery. Everyone has an opinion on why this has occurred and what we have learned over the years, there is no magic solution. Lots of finger pointing from all sides but that has not resulted in positive results and never will.
We are very encouraged with the work that has been done by OMNRF in collaboration with Nipissing First Nation and other First Nation stewards. The spring bans on commercial netting, reduced quota’s, spearfishing moratoriums during spawning season and other initiatives, are seeing results and we applaud and encourage continuation of these restrictions together with all other regulations that the sport anglers are subjected to as well. We know that navigating through these waters, so to speak, is precarious at the best of times, but the common goal and or thread, is a sustainable fishery for the future.
We need co-operation and exchange/sharing of information with all stakeholders and not the negativity, finger pointing that has taken place in the past. We are all partners in Lake Nipissing and collectively, with the spirit of co-operation we can all ensure that it remains as one of our greatest assets.
Peter Chirico is the President and CEO of the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.