WIIKWEMKOONG – On February 10, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory council passed a band council resolution (BCR) put forward by tourism manager Luke Wassegijig authorizing the exploration of fish stocking in the waters surrounding their territories.
“(The BCR) was based on reports coming out of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the reports coming back from community members fishing in our waters,” said Ogimaa Duke Peltier. “Ensuring that fish stocks are not low is of benefit for tourism and community members who are fishing to provide for their families.” Ogimaa Peltier also referenced the Wiikwemkoong partnership with this newspaper in the annual Manitoulin Ice Showdown that had proven to be an outstanding success this winter.
“We want to ensure that we take good care of our waters,” he said. “It is even more important in today’s new reality where we are seeing challenges in keeping grocery stores stocked.”
“Basically it was to look at engaging in fish stocking to ensure that there are adequate stocks to provide for sustenance and recreational fishing,” explained Mr. Wassegijig. “These days there are more and more people going out fishing, reconnecting with the land and the water.”
Details on the stocking plans are still very sketchy, he cautions, as it is very early days yet.
“I think the first step was to ensure that the band was on board with the concept,” he said. “We have an established partnership with Manitoulin Streams to rehabilitate streams in the community. That has proven to be very successful. Now we will plan the next steps and planning is very important to ensure that we take this on in a good way. So now we will be looking at the data, the science, to determine which fish are the best to stock, especially from a sustenance perspective. We are also looking at recreational impacts.”
Mr. Wassegijig stressed that the effort entails a collective approach. “The (Enaad-maa-geh-jik Wikwemikong) Development Commission has taken the lead, but it will obviously entail the lands commission and Manitoulin Streams,” he said. “The BCR allows us to build partnerships and expand some we already have, such as with Manitoulin Streams.”
Mr. Wassegijig pointed out that following the stream cleanup on Smith’s Creek that took place in 2016 with the assistance of Manitoulin Streams, without even having rehabilitation efforts put in place, an electro-fishing study late in the season reported an amazing 290 rainbow trout in the stream.
“There was a definite impact,” said Mr. Wassegijig. “Before the cleanup I don’t think there was even any way for the fish to get up stream.”
Mr. Wassegijig said he is excited about this project and the potential it holds for protection of the water and enhancing the marine experiences for both the Wiikwemkoong community and tourism in the region.