Where are the Fish? Using a “Fish as Food” Framework to Explore the Thunder Bay Area Fisheries


  • Kristen Lowitt Brandon University
  • Charles Z. Levkoe Lakehead University
  • Connie Nelson Lakehead University




Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainability, Local Fisheries, Place Based Sustainability


First published advance online December 16, 2019
Thunder Bay is the largest city in Northwestern Ontario and is located on the northern shore of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake. While fishing and fish consumption are significant parts of the Thunder Bay area’s food systems, the ability to purchase fish that are caught and processed in the region is extremely limited. While the lake once had an abundance of commercial fishing activity, today there are only a handful of commercial fishers left on the Canadian side and most of the catch is sold in the United States. In recent years, there have been growing efforts among community groups, local entrepreneurs, citizens, and Indigenous communities to enhance the sustainability of local food systems and ensure they can provide accessible, healthy, and culturally-appropriate foods, including fish. This article uses a “fish as food” framework to explore how policies and governance impact small-scale commercial fisheries in the Thunder Bay area’s food systems. Based on twenty-five interviews with a diverse range of actors involved in fisheries, as well as a review of policies in the interrelated areas of fisheries management and food systems, we look at the barriers and potential opportunities for reintegrating small-scale commercial fisheries into food systems in the Thunder Bay area. Our findings indicate that fisheries governance is dominated by top-down approaches to resource management, to the detriment of equity, livelihoods, and access to local fish for consumption.

Author Biographies

Kristen Lowitt, Brandon University

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and Environment

Charles Z. Levkoe, Lakehead University

Associate Professor, Director of the Sustainable Food Systems Lab, and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems

Connie Nelson, Lakehead University

Professor Emeritus, School of Social Work






Place Based Sustainability Research in the Provincial North

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