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.