Facebook Photos of Rotting Fish. How Should our Leaders Respond?

Who is responsible for this bycatch?  Assumption:  One image may (or may not) be a First Nations waste dump.  Fact:  One image is definitely a non-native waste dump?

Who is responsible for bycatch? Assumption: One image may (or may not) be a Native waste dump. Fact: One image is definitely a non-native waste dump.

For those leadership hopefuls seeking office as Nipissing First Nation Chief or Councillor, how would you respond to the Facebook photos posted about a fish dumpsite? Do you shoot from the hip or give some real thought and strategy to a fulsome response?

Certainly, we need people, leaders, that know how to be eloquent, strategic and ready to take action. The question for all our community: Do we have candidates that can propose and formulate an effective action plan? Do we have potential leaders that you can have confidence in?

At first indication of such an issue, initial communication may be necessary. Not only does our community need to hear from potential leaders but our neighbours and critics need to hear from us as well. A statement, containing well-prepared and thought-out key messages, may be needed. For example: “Nipissing First Nation is actively looking into the matter.” Perhaps, someone can explain: “The photo portrays something called “by-catch” or waste fish that is associated with most if not all fisheries.”

Communications needs to be clear, certain and optimistic. We need not be angry or confrontational. We need not place blame. It’s important to convey that Nipissing First Nation want to be a part of the solution and that we can confidently manage our own fishery.  “We are all partners in the conservation and protection of the Lake Nipissing fishery.”

Political action then requires an information gathering stage. Many people are pointing out that these photos may or may not be a site in Nipissing First Nation. The first thing that needs to be done is to ascertain the facts about the alleged dump site. Someone should take a ride down the bush roads. Ask if anyone that has information about this site. To make a decision, it is important to gather as much information as you can possible have.

Then comes formulating some intelligent and practical policy options. Once we have the information we need, what can be done? What ideas do our Chief and Council candidates have to deal with this? If this is indeed by-catch, perhaps we need to examine options on how to reduce waste. How can we train our harvesters to reduce their waste catch and how to properly dispose of it? Perhaps this is an enforcement issue? Do we need a strong conservation law that addresses acceptable waste and proper waste disposal?

Community engagement may also need to happen if it will have a significant impact on our community, or in this case, our commercial harvesters. Have the appropriate committee review the policy options of strategic action plan for their feedback. The issue of the Lake Nipissing fishery is a no-brainer. Engagement, communications and reporting will be necessary.

Then strategic action needs to be taken. We can’t rush into anything, especially if ideas cost money. An strategic action plan need to be developed that include a workplan, resources required to implement the plan, budgets and timeframes. Then approvals need to take place. That needs to be a part of the plan.

Finally, every idea that becomes a strategic action item requires a means of evaluation. We need to know if the strategic action is working. This also requires reporting back to the community. The communications with our members and our neighbours should always continue.

Is Nipissing First Nation ready to take leadership to address our own fisheries issues?  I’m looking forward to finding out and helping any way I can.  We are all part of the solution.



  1. Arnold May says:

    I do not actively participate in facebook responses or chat. This is a response to you as an NFN member. If you choose to share it with others that’s fine. I agree with all of your points understanding that we now have our own Gichi-Naaknigewin and it is foremost in my mind how we go forward and how do we enforce our own laws. I look to you and other committee members to help with this. It is time for us to blow our own horn in the media on how we at NFN are protecting the fishery. MNRF are very quick to publicize all the wonderful things they are doing without recognizing us here at NFN. Have a good day Bob.


  2. Rodney says:

    As long as there’s a bycatch this will always be an issue in the public eye. The problem of this issue is greater that what’s found in a dump site and more complicated than what’s being discussed. Finding a resolve will require honesty on so many levels that overlooking the smallest detail could miss the solution altogether. Any kind of meaningful change requires a “buy-in” by all affected parties whether they be involved it not involved. Anyhow, it’s a complicated issue but it’s solvable.
    Take care Bob,

  3. Villy says:

    Here’s a thought stop netting lake nipissing the lake can’t sustain it anymore

  4. Scott McLeod says:

    Hi Bob, As a nominated candidate for Chief, I thank you for the invitation to contribute to your blog to which you have raised some very important points and issues. I will try my best to keep it short but there are so many factors surrounding these social/political issues. I have referenced a Supreme Court of Canada Decision in my answers below which i feel will be very valuable to you and your readers to better understand some of the implications to these issues. Not so much from the case itself, but rather the prioritization of the resources found within the Supreme Court ruling.

    Waste is an issue that has been around for some time. It is not new but rather has not been dealt with properly. Regardless of where and who “wasted” these fish, the issue is waste and the knee jerk reaction of the general public would be that it is from Native fishermen. Whether that is the case or not, the underlying issue is under-utilized undesirable species, or “by-catch”. By-catch is, as you mentioned, a common issue with almost all commercial fishing throughout Canada and the world for that matter. Developing markets to utilize these fish are one answer but are not as easy as one might think and can be very cost prohibited. Gear type used is another method to reduce the amount of by-catch, but can be costly and inefficient to the fishermen. Lastly, proper disposal such as composting sites, although this does not address the amount of by-catch, it ensures proper sanitary disposal. The key is to use a combination of all of these methods to maximize use and minimize waste of the undesirable species in any commercial fishery.
    However, if this is an enforcement issue of law infractions, then the issue grows in complexity and requires proper government to government communication and consultation. While it is vitally important for NFN to maintain its position of self-governance with regards to our fishery, we must also hold the Ontario Government accountable as well. In any sustainable fisheries management plan, the foundation is good sound scientific data to determine the current health of fish populations in any given fishery. From this, we can determine just how much harvesting of any kind the fishery can sustain without jeopardizing the fishery itself. From there, through government/public communication and consultation processes, sound sustainable regulations can be developed.
    The problem however, is once you create the regulations or “laws” it grows in complexity as well. This problem lies with enforcement between two overlapping jurisdictions, NFN and the Ontario Government.
    I could go on and on about this subject but there are so many complex factors that have to be considered surrounding these issues. A good source of the implications and potential solutions lie within the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision regarding the Sparrow case (R v Sparrow, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1075).
    What this comes down to is that good management starts with good scientific data which requires a money source. The Ontario Government collects millions of dollars annually from our resource via fishing licences, fines and taxes from non First Nation fishermen and outfitters yet only contributes a tiny fraction towards its management and most of that goes to enforcement. If this lake is so important to Ontario’s economy, then we have to hold them accountable to their own claims and access these revenues to improve our scientific fishery data while working towards a better sustainable management plan. This would ensure our non-fishermen and fishermen alike, that the laws that we develop are putting the sustainability of the fishery first and not merely creating restrictions without good reason. Finally we need a government with the political will to follow the plan through to completion. Never create a law without proper information and never create a law you are not willing to enforce.

    These are very complex social and political issues that are hard to totally address in a blog environment, I invite you and your readers to contact me personally should you be interested in discussing these issues in greater detail.