Current projects Management, conservation et diversification
Recovery of connectivity of American eel (Anguilla rostrata) habitats
Backed by the Coastal Restoration Fund (CRF), a DFO program, the Mi’gmaq Wolastoqey Indigenous Fisheries Management Association (MWIFMA) aims to restore habitat connectivity for the American eel – Gataw in Mi’gmaq and Kat in Maliseet – within its territory. The CRF aims to foster projects that will mitigate threats to species and habitats along the coast and support actions that lead to the recovery of aquatic habitats, especially for special-status species such as the American eel. The main objective of this particular project is to facilitate migration at any time and at any life stage by connecting habitats of importance for this species at risk.
First of all, impassable obstacles to eel migration within the territory were targeted and characterised. Then, wildlife management plans were proposed to infrastructure owners prior to the restoration work being done. During this first phase, a trapnet was installed at the foot of the Lac D’Amours dam in the Rivière Dartmouth watershed, which led to the capture of more than 500 adult and juvenile eels in the summer of 2019.
By the fall of 2020, our team had made 8 obstacles within the Association’s territory passable at all times by American eels, through the construction and installation of permanent fishways on dams and the raising of weirs downstream of impassable culverts. This wildlife management work was done in the Dartmouth and Cascapedia river watersheds on the Gaspé Peninsula and in the Rivière Rimouski watershed in the Lower St. Lawrence. In total, the work done by MWIFMA in 2020 has provided access to more than 2000 hectares of habitat for the American eel, a species central to Mi’gmaq and Wolastoqey cultures. This project will be continued in 2021 and additional wildlife facilities will be installed on dams located in the Rivière Rimouski watershed. The MWIFMA team is working in collaboration with consultants from the AECOM aquatic team for this project.
Sea cucumber post-season inventory
2013 – present
MWIFMA has been involved in the post-season sea cucumber survey since 2013 in collaboration with license holders, including our three member communities. The objective of the survey is to assess the impacts of dredging fishing on sea cucumbers and benthic communities. The species composition in terms of abundance and biomass, as well as the size of sea cucumbers, are compared between sites at various dredging intensities and with different time delays since the last dredge pass. The results are shared with license holders and DFO in an effort to provide important information to support the sustainable development of this fishery.
Liaison with the Canadian Coast Guard
2019 – present
Since 2019, the MWIFMA has assumed a role of liaison between the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and the Mi’gmaq and Wolastoqey communities of Quebec. We act as a connecting thread to provide information on the many CCG programs to First Nations communities, and to foster relationships and exchanges between the CCG and the communities, in particular their fisheries departments. In addition to our presence in career fairs, a workshop was organized in March 2020 in Gaspé with representatives from the communities of Gesgapegiag, Gespeg, Listuguj and Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk. The various training, recruitment, auxiliary vessel, icebreaker and search and rescue programs were discussed.
NIGNAG training vessel
In 2017, MWIFMA acquired a multi-species training boat for the purpose of providing training. We also acquired three commercial communal fishing licenses for mackerel, herring and bluefin tuna; as well as the associated fishing equipment. We named the boat Nignag, which means our home in the Mi’gmaq language. The acquisition of this multi-species training boat is intended to adequately train members of the communities of Gespeg, Gespegiag and Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk to commercially fish different species such as lobster and the species covered by our licenses. In particular, this project allows real-life learning on various fishing techniques, different gears, new technologies, while completing practical training on safety at sea. The Nignag is also used for aquaculture activities at the site of the MWIFMA in Paspébiac, which allows the crew and the learners to be trained on the culture of macroalgae. With the help of DFO and Service Canada, the training boat program provides training for apprentices, deckhand helpers, captains, and scuba diving courses. Theoretical training recognized by educational establishments is combined with practical experiences on board the training boat.
Implementation of the pinniped abundance monitoring plan and portrait of boating activities in the Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area
MWIFMA is committed to implementing a joint environmental monitoring plan with DFO for the Banc-des-Américains marine protected area. This monitoring plan aims in particular to assess whether the conservation objectives are being achieved for this protected area located east of Gespeg. Two ecological and biological indicators were selected for this monitoring: the presence and abundance of pinnipeds (seals) as well as a portrait of boating activities. A 3-year monitoring schedule has been developed and MWIFMA will participate in field activities, analysis and dissemination of results in partnership with Gespeg and DFO.
2018 – present
Since the spring of 2018, MWIFMA has been operating its own aquaculture site in the Paspebiac bay. This site is dedicated to the cultivation of seaweed, mostly sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) as well as trials on Atlantic wakame (Alaria esculenta) and dulse (Palmaria palmata). Our sugar kelp is harvested to supply food processing companies such as SALAWEG, which was initially a project of MWIFMA. Our site is the first one in Quebec that is dedicated to commercial seaweed farming. It also allows the achievement of several research projects in collaboration with our partners (Merinov, MPO, UQAR, Laval University, etc.).
Atlas of Marine St. Lawrence Mi'gmaq and Maliseet Sites and Their Uses
2015 – present
Originally, this project aimed to increase the capacities of the MWIFMA member groups to collect and organise geo-referenced data on sites of importance in coastal and maritime environments and how those sites are used by the communities. More specifically, the project’s objective was to digitise, map and share Mi’gmaq and Wolastoqey knowledge related to traditional and contemporary activities taking place in the marine environment. Thus, the project enabled MWIFMA to gather available information on the places of importance to its three member communities and their uses, and to generate georeferenced databases, the first version of which is available as a PDF document here (Atlas of marine St. Lawrence Mi’gmaq and Maliseet sites and their uses by the Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Viger Communities).
The new version of the Atlas is presented in Story map format, www.atlas.MMAFMA.ca, and in particular allows community members to visualise coastal and maritime land use and to access data related to the marine environment within their territory in the form of a user-friendly atlas. It is an evolving tool that will be improved over time by the MWIFMA team and community members and will ultimately support communities in their participation in marine spatial planning.
Sustainable Initiatives to Reduce Risks of Whale Entanglement (Right whale, Blue whale, Beluga whale) in Fishing Gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
This project is part of the Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk (AFSAR). It aims to encourage the mobilization and participation of the member communities of the MWIFMA in the field of stewardship of species at risk, in relation to the threats of entanglement in fishing gear, particularly for the North Atlantic right whale, the blue whale and the St. Lawrence beluga. Thus, the ultimate objective of the project is to promote the conservation and recovery of these aquatic species at risk by implementing solutions that will reduce the risk of entanglement. This objective will be achieved by analyzing the results of the pilot tests undertaken over the years and by disseminating the good practices selected.
Within this framework, since 2021, during the snow crab and lobster fisheries of the member communities of the MWIFMA, weak links are being tested. Also, in the summer of 2022, tests of ropeless buoys were conducted primarily on the Nignag. These pilot tests will evolve and continue in future fishing seasons.
World Oceans Day
For the past couple of years, to celebrate World Oceans Day, MWIFMA has been hosting a beach clean-up in the community of Gesgapegiag. Community members join together to clean the shorelines. Following the event, light snacks and refreshments are provided.
Salmon story (Plamu, Polam)
For many years, MWIFMA and the Atlantic Salmon Federation of Quebec have collaborated together to provide elementary schools with the necessary equipment, salmon roe and classroom materials that can be incorporated with their curriculum.
Gespeg Summer Camp
Each year, the community of Gespeg organizes a summer camp for its young people. The MWIFMA contributes to this by participating in some of their outdoor and indoor activities, such as sea kayaking, visiting Forillon Park, whale watching, and more.