Project Seeks Reasons for Lake Whitefish Decline

By David Fitch.

Lake whitefish or dikameg is a species native to the Great Lakes and has been culturally important to the people of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) since time immemorial. But in recent years, fish harvesters from the SON who rely on dikameg as a source of food and income, noticed a change in populations in Lake Huron.

Ryan Lauzon is a fisheries biologist with the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nations Fisheries Assessment Program and has been in conversation with the community about this change. A large factor, he believes, is the presence of invasive quagga mussels filtering nutrients out of the water.

“There really isn’t a lot of food left for the larval lake whitefish to eat, so the theory is that they’re basically starving to death and there’s no new fish able to enter the fishery,” said Lauzon also citing recreational fish stocking, climate change, and shoreline development as possible strains on whitefish. “There are just so many things going on that we believe are having a negative effect on the fishery.”