Ochiwasahow: The Fisher Bay Area

Ochiwasahow in Cree, the Fisher Bay region is part of the treasured Boreal forest ecosystem and lies just a few hours north of Winnipeg on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. CPAWS is working in partnership with Fisher River Cree Nation to ensure that protections in the region are sufficient to sustain this thriving natural landscape as well as the cultural richness and local economic opportunities that depend on a healthy, intact ecosystem.


Located within the Interlake region of Manitoba, the land surrounding Fisher bay is remarkably undisturbed despite its relative short distance from urban, industrial and agricultural development.

Every shoreline provides glimpses of the thriving biological diversity found here. Expansive beaches line both mainland and islands. Fresh tracks are left in the sand by wolves, moose, foxes and bears passing in and out of old growth forests. Water birds continually wing by, traveling from nesting colonies to feeding grounds while songbirds bring the canopy to life with their calls. The lands and waters offer habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species including little brown bats, piping plover, Golden-winged warbler, shortjaw cisco, swamp pink, round-leaved bog orchid.

For centuries, Indigenous people have utilized Fisher Bay's resources while maintaining its well-being. The area has provided a home and livelihood to the Fisher River Cree Nation (FRCN) for many generations. Adequate landscape protection in this region according to the best combination of ecological and cultural considerations will ensure the lands and waters can continue to provide while safeguarding the tremendous potential to create community-driven sustainable economies reliant on a healthy environment.

The Fisher River Cree Nation is at the forefront of a growing movement of Indigenous communities leading the way in protection and management of their traditional lands and waters. Their vision is to achieve a community in which a healthy, secure and respected environment offers attachment to the natural world, where history, language, traditions, and culture are paramount and where traditional land use practices can be maintained.

Creation of a park

In 1999 FRCN began work toward legislated protections in the area to maintain traditional activities and to developing its eco- and cultural tourism potential. CPAWS has worked in support of their sustainable vision for the future of the Fisher Bay area since 2006.

In 2011, Fisher Bay Provincial Park was designated. Covering a significant portion (84,000 ha) of Fisher Bay's waters, islands and mainland forests though designated park boundaries were drawn by the Manitoba government in order to minimize opposition from development interests and hasten the park designation process.

The challenge – more protection needed

Based on ecological and economic studies and analysis of cultural values in the region, the current boundaries fall short of those needed to protect nature, culture and sustainable economic opportunity 1,2,3.

CPAWS continuing efforts

In 2013, the province committed to explore expanded protections in the Fisher Bay region in their parks strategy. The FRCN and CPAWS are currently leading community and stakeholder engagement to identify opportunities for expanded protection in the region that uphold Indigenous and Treaty rights.

How you can help

As Manitobans, we have the responsibility and the right to secure a future for the incredible boreal ecosystems and wildlife we share the landscape with. Stay tuned for opportunities for you to assist FRCN and CPAWS to show the province that you support expanded boreal protection in the Fisher Bay region.

Fisher Bay aerial by Ron Thiessen.
Fisher Bay aerial by Ron Thiessen.

Wolf by Ron Thiessen

Shelf fungus by Ron Thiessen

Canadian moose by Ron Thiessen.

Community celebration by the FRCN

Healthy intact forests ... or industrial logging?

[1] Fisher Bay Park Reserve - Economic Impact Study
[2] Fisher Bay Park Reserve - Areas of Ecological Significance Study

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