Submitted by John Bainbridge
Fathom Five National Marine Park was the theme of this year’s tenth Sources of Knowledge Forum held at the Tobermory Community hall on May 3 to 5. On Saturday SOK board member Daryl Cowell set out the objectives of the forum and the regulatory framework underpinning the park. The program was designed to provide a foundation for the Sunday morning Parks Canada consultation on the future of Fathom Five Marine Park. Stan McClellan then described the history of the Park and Chief Greg Nadjiwon gave an interesting talk about the land claims, one of which is a claim to the lake bed, that had, this week, gone to court.
Dr. Scott Parker of Parks Canada painted a bleak picture of the changes to the marine ecosystem as a result of climate change and invasive species, most notably the Quagga muscle. Darryl Hondorp of the US Geological Survey explained how telemetry is used to track fish movements even to the point where they can tell when a smaller fish is eaten by another larger fish.
Ellen Brody, of the U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries joined the Forum by video link. She described how the US federal government had proposed to significantly expand the area of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The proposal ran into fierce opposition because both the State and many local groups feared and distrusted this federal government intrusion into their lives. The federal government was given five years to prove its worth, failing which, the agreement would not be renewed. Five years later the local economy had appreciably grown and a track record of good community relations led to the State and community agreeing to a permanent sanctuary vastly larger than the original federal proposal.
Natasha Akiwenzie, of the Bagida-waad, a not-for-profit corporation which conducts research on the waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, described the changes they had noted in the lake fishery, particularly stronger and more frequent winds and the damage caused by the warming of the lake to whitefish, one of the most valuable commercial species.
Damon Panek, a talented and engaging speaker, is a Park Ranger and firefighter from Apostle Islands Park in Wisconsin. He demonstrated how language is the repository of the Ojibwe culture and how words contain a depth of meaning. He then moved on to explain how the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the Ojibwe understood the importance of fire to the health of the forest. One of the problems with modern fire suppression is that it leaves an ever growing store of fuel on the forest floor that burns destructively when ignited. Damon showed how natural and controlled burns prevent the build-up of fuel and, is one of nature’s ways of regenerating the forest.
On Sunday, Parks Canada held a public consultation on the future of the park. More than 60 people participated and offered a wide range of ideas. It remains to be seen how many, if any, of these suggestions appear in the new management plan being developed by Parks Canada. After the consultation SOK laid on shuttle buses to take participants to the Park’s newly acquired Driftwood Cove property.