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> Lake Nipissing Chamber of Commerce Study
Northhunter
Posted: Jun 08, 2017 - 09:25 am


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I've used this analogy before. You want water in a bucket, but it keeps flowing out of a hole. What's the more logical solution, try and fix the hole.. or continuously pour more and more water into the bucket? Stocking is not fisheries management. It's just stocking.

There are two commercial fisheries on nip.. the Gill netting, and the winter bungalow circus. Those with said "skin in the game" are outfitters benefitting from people paying to catch walleye. They are the "stakeholders" at odds with the MNRF. What doesn't help is Nip is a jem... 3 1/2hrs from the GTA. The supply doesn't meet the demand, restrictions are put in place, and the finger pointing game begins. I'd say the the MNRF has done it's job, because we all still have lots of fish to catch. A lot of people are not happy about what's been done, but regulations can be reversed, modified, changed. Things could be a lot worse.

I have no issue with the stocking that's taken place for the last 30 years. A lot of those involved just want to help give back what they take, and I get that. But when you start talking about rearing 20,000,000 eggs and stocking that on top of a viable, healthy population of fish.. I'm sorry, but you are disregarding the fundamentals of fisheries management. That is playing with fire. Intraspecific competition is something that is generally not beneficial (past a certain point) and should not be something you look to increase.. especially artificially.

All that being said, and I've always leaned towards this, is maybe.. just maybe the sky isn't falling after all? 200 fish weekends are generally not a sign of dire times. Nor is continual, consistent bumper year classes indicative of a failing adult population. You need big fishes to make little fishes, after all. I've fished the South shore/Callander area through the ice like many others and the best way I can describe that is it seems an awful lot like fishing a nursery. Most of the fish caught are juvies. My summer haunts we have been batting about 10% the last couple years. That is, about 1 in 10 fish are legal. I know a guy who fishes off the beaten path and gets 6-10lb fish quite often. One of the guys in our winter group fished with Bear Creek this year.. the week of the rain storm. They pulled up 3 limits of legal fish in an afternoon. Another thing I have mentioned in the past is that walleye exhibit something called sexual size dimorphism. That is, both sexes grow at the same rate until they start allocating energy to reproduction. After that, females grow exponentially faster.. to the point that if you catch a male much over 20 inches, it's basically a trophy. So not only does the current reg. limit legal fish to those that are closer to the top of the age/abundance pyramid.. it is forcing anglers to target a poulation of fish that arguably makes up closer to half the total of said age group (did that make sense?).

I've been following this for a while and there's been lots of stuff I wanted to touch on but just didn't have the time to sit down and do it. That's my .02 for this morning.




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kenster
Posted: Jun 08, 2017 - 11:11 am


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North hunter> let me be the first to disagree with your anal ogy in respect to two commercial fishery's.One is a catch and release , the other is not.One creates a viable attraction to North Bay, the other does not.One is exceptionally large in quantity and waste, the other is not.
l'll stop their before I am deemed a Racist.

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buddy
Posted: Jun 08, 2017 - 01:41 pm


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I'm going to come to Northhunter's defense and say his observations are spot on.
When you talk about adding 1.6 million fry to the water body it sound impressive but realistically how much is that when viewed from the end point. It takes 10,000 fry to hatch out for only one of them to make it to maturity. This means that the lake will increase by 160 fish, assuming that the additional stocking is even beneficial to the lake...nobody really know for sure since the stocked fish aren't been found in any of the fall nettings that are being conducted yearly. And to be fair, those fish that were milked for their eggs and milt would have spawned out on their own, adding a certain amount of mature fish to the lake anyway.
To view it from another angle, collectively, the pickerel are spawning out eggs by the trillions. It may be true that the natural hatching percentage is not as compared to the hatchery but Nipissing is what they call a fish factory, it has all the conditions necessary for good reproduction, it is a large wind swept lake that has a vast amount of shallow water for the fry but also deeper pockets for the older fish. I has perfect summer temperatures and stained water for their light sensitive eyes. Also it has a large perch population for forage.
The natural hatch rate varies from lake to lake and is generally regarded as being between 5 and 50 percent. For Nipissing it should be fairly high so the fry would also be hatching out by the trillions as well. I really don't know the number but for the sake of this argument let's say it is 1.6 trillion. How does this compare to the 1.6 million? One million has 6 zeros, and one trillion has 12 zeros, so there are a million millions in a trillion. This means that the hatchery has increased the lake population by one part in a million. That is truly underwhelming, but there are those who are passionate about the hatchery so I say let it continue, I would even suggest that they be allowed to double the egg harvest if it brings peace to "the family".
Any real change to the lake status has to come either from the courts or the negotiation table where the inherent native rights are renegotiated (for a price of course) to allow the lake to revert back to it's glory days.

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Grumpa
Posted: Jun 10, 2017 - 08:59 am


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QUOTE (Northhunter @ Jun 08, 2017 - 09:25 am)
Stocking is not fisheries management. It's just stocking.

Those with said "skin in the game" are outfitters benefitting from people paying to catch walleye. They are the "stakeholders" at odds with the MNRF.

But when you start talking about rearing 20,000,000 eggs and stocking that on top of a viable, healthy population of fish.. I'm sorry, but you are disregarding the fundamentals of fisheries management. That is playing with fire.

Actually, the definition of a stakeholder - is a person or group affected by an organizations actions, objectives and policies.
That definition aptly applies to a huge segment of the entire community surrounding the lake (not just exclusively 'outfitters').
The people most affected by fisheries management decisions includes every corner variety that sells ice to a fishing charter, every bait shop that provides bait, every grocery store that supplies a fishing party, every motel that provides shelter, every restaurant that prepares a meal, every gas station that fills a fishermens vehicle or gas can....and all the people (and their families) that are hired and employed by every one of those business'.
So to imply that the only stakeholders that have skin in the game is limited to the lake's outfitters .....couldn't be further from reality. The entire local economy and tens of thousands of people that work and reside in proximity of the lake are completely co-dependent on the outcome of fisheries management decisions.
If policies fail or the decisions made...don't get it right, the entire community feels the result.

Until we can get the over abundant population of juvenile fish (that are now in the system) to a more natural distribution of mature adult fish, does the population once again become balanced and 'repeatedly' self sustaining....at least to the point of reintroduction of a more acceptable sports fishing harvest. And there's some early evidence from the spring walleye assessment, at Wasi falls, that the foundation of the population rebuild (the 2012 and subsequent recruitments) are 'possibly' moving through the system as hoped.

Overfishing, primarily through commercial harvest, wiped out the indigenous population of blue pickerel.
A 'fisheries management' decision was made....and guess what...a mass 'stocking' program was undertaken. A larger, more aggressive, faster growing alternative to the original species was introduced and the planting of yellow pickerel naturalized quite successfully, at least in the early stages until humans once again upset the balance.
The original plan to stock 'yellows' was never expected to be a one and done deal. The expectation was that the initial seeding might need further boosting at points down the road.
Until we get a proper balance of age classification back in the walleye population (and see ample evidence that fish are surviving and growing through into the older age and size distributions) additional or expanded stocking should be one of 'several' options available.
How did the current population of fish get here, they didn't materialize on their own....man introduced them. Consequently, it shouldn't come as any great surprise that further infusions might be necessary at some juncture...until a comfortable, properly distributed, population balance is once again obtained.

There's hasn't been five regulatory changes and four major, time consuming and expensive studies of the lake commissioned since 2007 because the pickerel population is thriving and in balance.
To assume the current population of pickerel is viable, healthy and self-sustaining....ignores all the evidence and conditions necessary to make that assessment. We're no where near that point yet.

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Longshank
Posted: Jun 10, 2017 - 04:17 pm


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Well said grumpa.

You may also add to your earlier comment re. stakeholders in regards to dollars spent. The vast amounts of cash infused all over province for those of us that buy more fishing product, lures/rods/reels and line every year to go and fish this wonderfull lake.

Speaking for myself, I easily drop 2-3 hndred each year on stuff I already have more stuff that looks great and stuff just cause it's "stuff"

Fisheries manangement is a multi faceted set of guidlines and not one solution is ever the key to "fix' a problem. it requires all aspects of firt identifying the major reasons for any "problems" and then a long term solution to fix same.

Since there are so many players in the game this lake is more complex, but I do believe it can be fixed.

We need restraint, honesty. willingness to share, patience and of course elbow grease as well as hope.

those of you up there I commend for all your efforts to date

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smalleye99
Posted: Jun 11, 2017 - 08:56 pm


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So pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it expecting it to fill is similar to the notion that hanging a pint of blood for a bleeding patient without tending to the spirting artery is a lack of recognition of the problem.

One cannot choose an effective solution without first identifying the problem.

If total harvest mortality exceeds the known sustainable rate of depletion no amount of stocking can fix that problem. Unfortunately there isn't a pain free way to fix too much harvest of a damaged resource.

As the 2016 Mike Jones/Michigan Lake Nipissing Management review said one cannot expect to hit a 10 yr population recovery target by blowing waaay over the harvest target in the first year and in subsequent years. That paper has had too little air time in the debates about the future of the lake.

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FishBait
Posted: Jun 11, 2017 - 09:28 pm


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The solution can be simply painfull. Stop all commercial and native netting for three years. Allow rod and reel catching but limit keepers to two under 40 centimeters. Initiate a special tax (for the duration of the three years only) on either license, tourist or both and distribute to the licensed commercial fisheries and native population to off set revenue lost. Allow the larger females to reproduce. No amount of stocking can overcome over harvesting.

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Northhunter
Posted: Jun 12, 2017 - 01:16 am


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There is a lot of press between the LNSA (Lake Nipissing Stakeholders Association) and the MNRF, who obviously do not agree on things. The major players are primarily all lodge owners. I was not going by the definition when I made my post above. Furthermore, there are exceptions.. but the average gas bar attendant and hotel owner doesn't know chit when it comes to making resource based decisions. They may be affected and the have an opinion, but that doesn't mean they should have any more say in how this thing is handled vs. those that have a fisheries background and heaven forbid, see more than a dollar figure when they look at the lake and its situation. Heck, the average angler doesn't even know the age of the fish they are catching. Most seem to assume (or pretend?) that there is no mortality in catch and release angling.

If the original blue walleye were extirpated, than the subsequent decision to initiate stocking was not a fisheries management one as it relates to walleye. You cannot manage what isn't there. Again.. it was just stocking.

There have been subsequent studies in the last 10 years or so because random sets of data collection are giving red flags. That is debateable, given the accuracy is +/- 18% (per the MNRF) and the logistics of the sample collection. I like talking to a member of the LNSA (who will not be named) when I can. He put it best when he said the only way to really find out what's in the lake would be to drain it. But if the data is correct and there is a problem, all indications are that it is not habitat, nor water quality, lack of spawning sites, or even fecundity of the breeding population (which appears to be through the bloody roof) are to blame. No sir. Everything points to over harvest. And that got started back in the days of a 6 fish, no size restriction limit. Imagine the pickle we'd be in if that was never changed.

If we left the lake alone it would fully recover. Stocking does not help it. It's just a little bit more water in the bucket.

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Grumpa
Posted: Jun 12, 2017 - 10:16 am


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smalleye99 you've mentioned the Michigan State University review a couple times now....wondering why it wasn't given more air play.
Without actually re-reading that study again...as I recall, it was commissioned 'by the OMNRF itself' to basically review its 'own' data and conclusions and independently (as a arms length 3rd party) confirm what the OMNRF, LNSA, NFN already knew and had previously agreed.....that overharvest of the walleye population led to its imminent collapse leading up to the 2013 FWIN (walleye index netting survey).
They were the same findings that the OMNRF previously reached in its earlier extensive lake management review.
I believe the reason it didn't get more press and discussion at the time was because it simply reaffirmed and verified what was already known and consequently didn't cover any new ground. As I recall, the University didn't collect any more or new data, just independently reviewed what was already available and given to the authors by the OMNRF. You can certainly correct me if I'm wrong regarding that interpretation. The conclusions in the report were correct and accurate, just not new....consequently, not well received or highlighted.

Several of the contributors to this thread have alluded to the fact 'overharvest' is the problem with the walleye stocks. There's absolutely no disagreement on that fact by anyone close to the situation.....the problem has been 'clearly' identified since the late 1990's and surmised even before then.
The analogy's of buckets with holes and open bleeding arteries are all well and fine and clearly visualize the situation...but they all ignore the over riding fact....that there's absolutely 'nothing' that can or will be done, at least under the current political environment, to correct that problem. It's the variable in the equation that's fixed and can't be changed or altered (given engrained cultural and treaty rights, as mentioned many many times early and in previous threads).
Even the NFN understands the overharvest fact....which led to voluntary early cessation of gill netting the last 3 years, agreement to enlarge gill netting mesh sizes from 3.5" to 3.75" and establishment of their own walleye population assessment and stocking initiatives.
So unless the NFN has a huge change of heart and then suddenly and collectively stops gill netting entirely on their own....that situation 'isn't' going to change....consequently, repeatedly circling the wagons on that issue isn't going to accomplish anything.
Certain loosely agreed upon levels of concentrated commercial harvest will continue....as they have been for generations.The NFN and OMNRF aren't even exactly sure what those actual harvest numbers are....as there's likely substantial amounts of unreported or inaccurately documented commercial harvest....and to be completely fair, some on the recreational side as well.
This is primarily why the OMNRF has continuously tinkered with recreational bag and slot limits over the last 7 years.....it's the only part of the harvest equation they can impact and have control over.
So let's summarize.
Commercial harvest can't and probably won't be altered anytime soon....so the water is just going to continuously pour out of Northhunters imaginary bag (and that won't change, no matter how many times or how often there's a call to plug the holes or stem the flow).
The OMNRF has changed, altered and tinkered with sport fishing regulations (bag and slot limits) repeatedly for the better part of a decade.
The outcome didn't change...we continued to deplete the pickerel population until we came to 2013 and virtually everyone that was collecting data, monitoring and studying the situation agreed the walleye fishery was headed for imminent collapse (2 different and time consuming studies undertaken confirmed this.....so that pretty much throws the sampling error idea out the window). Once you get consensus from different sources on an issue you have to accept the results as pretty much valid.

So short of just throwing up our hands and conceding defeat....what do you do?

Well the OMNRF decides one more time to change sports fishing regulations to a virtual 'catch and release' fishery in May 2014. Up to that point, summer and winter sports fishing had more or less depleted the system of juvenile fish....and approximately only 3% of the walleye population was over 3 years of age or older and larger then 35 cms in length (as commercial fishing was straining the system of fish above that size).
The current recreational bag and slot limits (nothing under 46 cms or 18" in length) were implemented in 2014 to allow the juvenile fish to breed at least once, if not a couple times, before being taken by sports fishermen.
Fast forward now, to 2017, and there's some early evidence the juvenile population has skyrocketed 'possibly' signaling the success of the 2014 regulatory changes.....leading some to believe the population is once again thriving and no further changes (or artificial infusions) are necessary.
If the population of juveniles doesn't continue to move through the age and size classifications of the system and continue to grow in sufficient expected numbers, we'll just end up with a heavily skued population of smaller juvenile fish that's never going to be in balance....and the current regulations of no recreational harvest under 18" will have to remain in place (which is something less then a desired outcome from a sports fishing perspective)....otherwise, the entire population once again returns to a state of duress and immenient collapse.

Is there something else in the arsenal that can be employed, that hasn't been fully utilized up to this point (at least since the initial man made planting of yellows)....to possibly counteract the unmitigated effects of a commercial over harvest of adult fish over a certain size (that won't change....no matter how many times it's sited)?
Everything else has been tried.
This year's population assessment and the next two will determine if the present regulations are working and are the right course of action. If sampling evidence indicates we aren't returning to an age balanced pickerel population....then other under-utilized options will need to be entertained....which is the contention of stocking proponents like the LNSA.
Sorry for the length of the post....brevity isn't one of my better qualities.

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buddy
Posted: Jun 12, 2017 - 12:42 pm


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Grumpa your recap sums up the problem very well but there are many potential unintended consequences that may develop if a large scale stocking program is implemented. The amount of pickerel fry that would be needed to even begin to offset the over harvest problem is colossal. Currently the maximum allowable egg harvest sits at 2 million, the hatchery program wants to see a tenfold increase (20 million eggs), this is still too small to even make a small statistical impact. The MNR is resisting this effort because it is unclear how many fry are lost due to stress, predation, and the fact that stocked fish fry don't reproduce as well.
What would be needed is a stocking number of about 200 million fry, but can the lake supply enough nourishment for both the native and stocked fish? The old rule regarding fish stocking is that it is better to under stock that over stock. When over stocked, the fry quickly consume all of the available food resources and then the population collapses, doing more harm than good.
Here is an alternate viewpoint put out by people who do stocking for their livelihood. In regards to a lake like Nipissing, their recommendation is to not do it.
http://www.communityhatcheries.com/wp-cont...rch-23-2015.pdf

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Northhunter
Posted: Jun 12, 2017 - 12:47 pm


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So a breeding population that made up less than 3% of the overall abundance managed to produce bumper year classes and pollute the entire lake with juvenile fish for several consecutive years in a row? Does that sound like it makes sense? Cuz it don't.

The problem I have with the data is that it is almost entirely based on FWIN. It is the MNRF's "holy grail" in walleye assessment because it standardizes how the sampling is done across the province. The whole idea behind it is that it is completely random. Nets are set anywhere from 0-45ft IIRC, but always on bottom. The lake is divided into a grid and numbers are taken at random (often from a phone book). There's your net locations. It is done the same way on every lake at roughly the same time every year, regardless of classification, topography or forage base. Crews are small and It is usually done over a few days of 24 hr sets. A pretty small window. At least that's how I remember it. Now if the fish aren't there or don't move.. that net obviously isn't going to catch much.
I covered this at length before too.. but nobody remembers this crap so I'm throwing it out there again. The MNRF itself basicaly alluded to the possibility of a booming smelt population affecting the fishing (I would argue it could also effect netting results). This was back in 2012 and was never looked into further. There is the possibility that FWIN isn't as effective catching adults as it s juveniles on Nip. Any spring breeding observations I hear about are from the same site year after year, in the heart of the heaviest hit part of the lake. Wasi Falls. There is lots and lots and lots of other water and lots and lots and lots of fish that are breeding in it. Just sayin'

And it was a bucket. Not a bag.

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Grumpa
Posted: Jun 14, 2017 - 09:13 am


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QUOTE (Northhunter @ Jun 12, 2017 - 12:47 pm)
So a breeding population that made up less than 3% of the overall abundance managed to produce bumper year classes and pollute the entire lake with juvenile fish for several consecutive years in a row? Does that sound like it makes sense? Cuz it don't.

The problem I have with the data is that it is almost entirely based on FWIN. It is the MNRF's "holy grail" in walleye assessment because it standardizes how the sampling is done across the province. The whole idea behind it is that it is completely random.
I covered this at length before too.. but nobody remembers this crap so I'm throwing it out there again. The MNRF itself basicaly alluded to the possibility of a booming smelt population affecting the fishing (I would argue it could also effect netting results). This was back in 2012 and was never looked into further. There is the possibility that FWIN isn't as effective catching adults as it s juveniles on Nip.
Any spring breeding observations I hear about are from the same site year after year, in the heart of the heaviest hit part of the lake. Wasi Falls. There is lots and lots and lots of other water and lots and lots and lots of fish that are breeding in it. Just sayin'

And it was a bucket. Not a bag.

So many talking points. Unfortunately, I feel another long post coming on. I'll apologize in advance.

I'll start by addressing Northhunters contention regarding the FWIN's (Fall Walleye Index Netting surveys). FWIN's are not the 'holy grail' of data which the OMNRF almost 'entirely' relies on....far from it.
FWIN's measure the entire fish population, juveniles to adults. Spring walleye assessments measure spawning adults only (mature fish). I'm going to reprint (once again) the site for the 'Lake Nipissing Fisheries Management Plan'. This is the OMNRF's comprehensive analysis and blueprint for management of the lake and its fisheries resources.

https://lnsbr.nipissingu.ca/wp-content/uplo...gement-Plan.pdf

The LNFMP very clearly identifies (pg. 29) what data it uses to assess the health of the walleye fishery...which includes...spring spawning assessments, FWIN's, open and hard water creel surveys and various commissioned lake studies (including annual reproductive ecology and dietary analysis studies).
All data is used collectively and compared annually, on a fully collaborative basis, to findings obtained by other groups including the NFN.
This fully explains the actual FWIN process.

https://lnsbr.nipissingu.ca/wp-content/uplo...IN-protocol.pdf

Standardization in FWIN methodology allows comparison of results from past and future population surveys. Random site sampling minimizes bias in the data. Note, Lake Nipissing is approximately 87,000 hectares in size so you can see how many location sites are recommended for deployment each year.

The OMNRF does actually 'informally' monitor smelt populations (again identified in the lake management plan) as part of the incidental bycatch collected in the nets during the FWIN surveys. But the OMNRF feels no additional assessment of the population is warranted, at least at this time.

Wasi Falls, despite being located in a busier part of the lake, certainly is one of the major spawning sites...it has perfect habitat and conditions for the process. The Falls may be the only site Northhunter hears about each year, but that doesn't mean there aren't others that are well known and documented...including South river, Sturgeon and the Iron Islands plus numerous other smaller locations that are regularly discussed and mentioned, even on this board (the tiny area in and around my own bay being just one)....and some of the major sites are not just utilized by the OMNRF to assess the walleye breeding population.

https://www.baytoday.ca/local-news/end-of-s...ipissing-290121

All of the OMNRF's data indicates a lack of mature adult breeding fish in the population.
No offence to Northhunter, but I think I'm going to lean towards the science and data interpretation done by the OMNRF...as opposed to intuition, gut feel or limited personal observation. As I stated some time ago, the OMNRF has the necessary manpower, education, training and expertise to properly collect, analyze and interpret data over many years. You need something verifiable and concrete to build a fisheries management plan on. Short of believing there's a hidden, unrecorded or undocumented sampling of additional mature adult fish, consider this - we've now been through 3 full summers (starting another) and 3 hard water seasons of a virtual catch and release recreational fishery.....plus 3 seasons of a voluntary early moratorium on commercial gill netting.
Just imagine how many walleye have 'not'....since the 2011/12 recruitments (and all their subsequent offsprings) were pegged as the population rebuild....been removed from the system. Now consider how many tens of thousands of kgs of fish were previously being harvested each year by those same means. That might just be the source of the current over abundance of juvenile fish, all on its own....certainly a contrary view to consider.

And I'm still not quite sure what "stocking is just stocking" means. The OMNRF and even the Community Hatcheries group, highlighted by buddy, all identify stocking as a fisheries management tool?

I was right, this was another long post

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buddy
Posted: Jun 18, 2017 - 12:25 pm


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There is a new North bay Nugget article regarding this study. I'll post the link without any comments, there is plenty of fuel to add to the fire from either perspective from this article.
https://www.baytoday.ca/local-news/opinion-...t-review-646205

Correction: That was the Bay Today article. Here is the Nugget article.
http://www.nugget.ca/2017/06/16/final-repo...s-group-charges

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Grumpa
Posted: Jun 18, 2017 - 12:59 pm


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The really unfortunate thing with respect to this report was that it was 'suppose' to be entirely independent.....a completely unbiased review.
The unexplained delay in releasing it and the possibility the author may now have been asked/influenced to make subsequent changes, alterations or deletions prior to official release......now removes that impression of independence.
A real shame....and maybe a complete waste of time.

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