The Nipissing First Nation (NFN) says it is going to close the commercial walleye fishery effective at noon on Saturday. This closure will remain in effect until the end of the 2016 Spring Fisheries says a news release from the band council.
It follows a meeting on Monday, August 17th, when NFN’s Chief and Council met to review reports and recommendations from NFN’s Natural Resources Department.
“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.
McLeod, with over 25 years of experience working fisheries in both technical and management capacities, says he is committed to remaining involved in ongoing discussions and follow up meetings with fishers and the community.
“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.”
Earlier this year, NFN amended its Fisheries Law to reflect the current realities of harvesting on Lake Nipissing.
The release 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”).
Closing the walleye fishery before August 31st effectively reduces the season by more than half - to just over 3 months from the 7 months it was in the past.
As well, Nipissing First Nation has implemented local job creation initiatives aimed at reducing the dependence on the commercial fishery in order to protect the lake.
Some of the medium to long term initiatives suggested by the membership 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.
The release continues saying the Nipissing First Nation is dedicated to working cooperatively within their community and with 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."
An anonymous community tip line has been established and enforcement has been strengthened 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.
"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."