Lake Superior Day 3

This morning the fellows hopped on the bus to Bayfield, Wisconsin, and then headed offshore.

Comprised of 21 islands and 12 miles of shoreline, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a truly unique national park experience. Created by legislation authored by Gaylord Nelson in 1970, the islands have been steadily drawing visitors to camp, hike, kayak and more for decades. But there are special considerations that go into managing a park dominated by an inland sea. 

The group got an overview of management practices from the superintendent at park headquarters. They also received an official greeting from Sue Lemieux with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. This part of the world was first home to the Ojibwe, or Anishinaabe, people, and is still an important part of both their origin story and their current lives. Lemieux welcomed the group to the islands by a traditional Water Ceremony.

Following the introduction, the group boarded The Island Princess and headed to Stockton Island, where they had lunch on the beach, hiked, and talked about managing a shared resource with respect for cultural considerations, tourists’ preferences, climate change projections, and island ecosystems. They also discussed the unique challenge presented when most of your park’s traffic is by boat. The journalists heard from park rangers, a professor of community and environmental sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the mayor of the city of Bayfield. 

After returning to the mainland, the group devoted their attention to fish.  It’s hard to go anywhere in Bayfield where whitefish isn’t on the menu. In its heyday, commercial fishing on the Great Lakes employed tens of thousands of fishermen but, like the story of so many fisheries, that ended in collapse, thanks to things like overharvest and invasive species. Still, a few tenacious families hung on and now harvest from rebounding populations of whitefish, lake herring and lake trout. The journalists heard from commercial fishermen about their perspectives on the health and viability of the fishery. 

Next, the crew headed to Red Cliff Hatchery, to hear a different perspective on the fishery. Ojibwe Indians, like members of the Red Cliff Band, have fished the waters of Lake Superior for hundreds of years. Today a small fishery still exists, guaranteed by treaty rights from the 1800’s and managed by the tribe. The group heard from the treaty natural resources administrator of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and learned how the tribal fishery works and what challenges lay ahead as they toured the hatchery.

Meanwhile, next door to the hatchery, the UW Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility is researching techniques and technologies to advance aquaculture, which many people think is the only way to push seafood toward sustainability and minimize impacts on wild fish populations. The group stopped here to hear from the facilities manager before heading to dinner - which was, appropriately, a backyard lake trout barbecue.