With conservation being an indispensable tool used to counter different climate change impacts seen today, comes a new initiative aimed at protecting the native tiotià:kton (brook trout) population in Tioweró:ton.
The territory located in the Laurentians is shared by Kanehsata’kehró:non, Kahnawa’kehró:non, along with a multitude of species, including tiotià:kton.
As a culturally and ecologically significant species, growing evidence of the threats faced by the tiotià:kton population has resulted in the implementation of a Catch Reporting Program (CRP), launched on August 16.
“Community concerns about declining brook trout numbers in Tioweró:ton were the leading motivation for past and present brook trout studies, along with the CRP,” explained Tyler Moulton, Environmental Projects coordinator for Aquatic Habitats at the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO).
The program, developed by KEPO and Tioweró:ton caretakers, requires community engagement in the form of informational cards that can be filled up at the end of each fishing trip in Tioweró:ton. The cards ask for the time, date, and location fished, the number and type of fish caught, how long the fish were, and how many were kept, versus the number released.
“The CRP will help us collect information continuously to help us understand how the fishery is changing through time,” noted Moulton. “This is especially important in the context of rapid climate change.”
Alongside the goal to collect crucial information about the tiotià:kton population, the KEPO coordinator expressed that the program will ideally serve as an incentive to increase interest in conservation efforts among members of both communities.
“We really want this to empower the community to become more informed and invested in the Tioweró:ton brook trout conservation,” said Moulton. “We hope that people will use this as an opportunity to increase dialogue with us and to educate us more on the history of the fishery that we are simply unable to measure using scientific techniques.”
In previous years, community involvement to assess the changes in Tioweró:ton namely took form through surveys. Released in May 2017, the Tioweró:ton Land Use Survey showed that 40 percent of respondents found that the fish population was in fact decreasing.
“We request that people report all fish caught in the territory as this will provide us with information about the overall ecology of the lakes,” explained Moulton. “It’s critical that we know the numbers of all fish species to understand how trout may be affected by other fish species.”
An ecological mapping project conducted in 2016 and 2017 found that three percent of the Tioweró:ton territory is made up of lakes and rivers, including 69 lakes and ponds covering a surface area of approximately 629 acres.
However, these ecosystems and the species that inhabit them have become increasingly at threat, according to various studies completed in recent years.
For instance, a 2019 study in collaboration with environmental consultant Groupe Hémisphères identified menaces to the tiotià:kton populations, which include climate change, competition from other fish species, and overharvesting of trout in some waters.
“Brook trout are more vulnerable to current stressors than are other fish in Tioweró:ton,” stated Moulton. “They require cold, clean, and well oxygenated waters – conditions that are all declining with a warming climate and increased human development.”
While work carries on to preserve the territory used for everything from hunting, fishing, berry picking and medicine gathering, KEPO’s aquatic habitats expert reminds Kanien’kehá:ka members of the significance individual contribution can have on the collective well-being.
“The more sources of information and perspectives we have on this project, the more effective it will be,” said Moulton. “Knowledge is power, and the more people that do participate, the more knowledge we have.”
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door