BAYSAR joins effort to track down net owners

For The Nugget
A reward is being offered for information on so-called “ghost nets” found in Lake Nipissing, and the local search and rescue organization is offering its skills in resolving the issue.
The Ministry of Natural Resources asked Friday for the public’s assistance in finding the owners of the abandoned nets, and since then Bob Goulais of Nipissing First Nation and North Bay Search and Rescue (BAYSAR) have stepped up to the plate.

“The MNR asked for the public’s assistance and we thought BAYSAR could contribute with our floater plane and trained spotters,” Stan French, president of BAYSAR, said.
“If we see anything, we report it to the MNR to be investigated.”
French contacted Derek Shogren, president of the North Bay District Chamber of Commerce, to offer BAYSAR’s services.
“I was pleased to see Mr. French and his team step up with their assistance, even if it is not their traditional role of search and rescue, but community people that are concerned for the lake,” said Shogren in a news release.
“We don’t need to make this an issue that divides the community but brings it together.”
BAYSAR, which boasts 15 members and has been in the community for more than 20 years, will be conducting random searches of Lake Nipissing for nets. They will report all nets seen to the MNR, who will then investigate.
“This issue has gone to the highest levels of the MNR,” said Shogren. “I believe it was the deputy minister who put out the call for the public’s assistance, passing it down to the North Bay office.”
Goulais has offered a reward of $1,000 for any information leading to the apprehension of the owners of the nets.
“I truly share the anger that is being portrayed in local coffee shops, in newspaper comment sections and in social media,” Goulais said in a post on his blog. “My heart aches as I feel the pain of our beautiful lake and the fish-life that have given our people sustenance and life for centuries.”
Overall, the chamber of commerce is pleased with the community’s response to the ghost nets.
“We hope that by working together with the Lake Nipissing Stakeholders Association (LNSA), MNR, NFN, Mayor Hec Lavigne of Callander, Mayor Al McDonald of North Bay, the community at large and other officials, these illegal acts will be deterred and/or charges will be laid on these people who are contravening the very rules that were implemented to ensure the viability of our lake and fisheries in the future,” the chamber said in a news release.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli has also commented on the issue of ghost nets, saying he supports “a proactive approach by the MNR to find a solution to this problem, and will continue to bring up concerns about the Lake Nipissing fishery in the (provincial) Legislature”
Anyone with information on the abandoned nets is encouraged to call the MNR at 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).

Emily Haws