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Health and safety

Boating Safety

For information on boating safety or to review the Safe Boating Guide, go to

  • Avoid dangerous behaviour, such as speeding, and never use drugs and/or alcohol while you operate your boat.
  • Check your boat for any leaks or damage before you head out.
  • Top up fluids carefully to make sure you don’t spill fuel or oil into the environment.
  • Ensure everyone on board has a Canadian approved personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket that fits properly.
  • Review the Canadian Safe Boating Guide to ensure you know what safety equipment is required for your vessel size and make sure it is accessible. Appropriate safety equipment may include, but is not limited to:
    • buoyant heaving line (not less than 15 m)
    • a bailer or manual bilge pump
    • manual propelling device (i.e. paddles)
    • sound signalling device, flares, and watertight flashlight
    • magnetic compass
    • anchor (not less than 15 m of rope)
    • re-boarding device
    • navigation lights
    • fire extinguisher
  • Do not overload your boat. Ensure you distribute equipment/load evenly throughout the boat.
  • File a sail plan with a reliable person, let them know where you are going, when you plan to be back, and who to contact in an emergency.
  • If the weather is poor, postpone your trip. If you get caught in bad weather, head to shore and take shelter quickly.
  • If your boat capsizes, hold onto the boat and do not worry about your gear.

Ice Safety

  • Always use extra caution and test the thickness of the ice before you travel on it.
  • Right after freeze-up, ice towards the middle of the lake is thinner than that along the shoreline.
  • Never assume uniform ice thickness on rivers and lakes.
  • Drive carefully and slowly over the ice to reduce water waves under the ice and possible cracking.

Treating Hypothermia

For information on the effects and treatment of hypothermia, visit:

  • First, cover the victim and protect them from the weather.
  • Then find an external source of heat (more than the cover).
  • Gradually raise the person’s temperature by providing a source of heat, such as your own body heat, to warm them.
  • Handle the victim gently and keep them as still as possible.
  • Wet clothes do not need to be removed, if you can provide the victim with good insulation.
  • If possible, send someone for help and medical aid.

Eating Fish

Site-Specific NWT Fish Consumption Guide

The NWT Chief Public Health Officer provides site-specific advice and precautions for fish consumption to residents and visitors for several lakes and rivers in the NWT. The advice is based on the most up-to-date data on environmental contaminants and can be found by visiting:

Arsenic in lake water around Yellowknife

Arsenic occurs naturally in the earth’s soil, rock and water and is often found alongside gold. While not hazardous to our health where it is found naturally, it can be released as a dust into the environment during mining activities. In this form, it can impact people, land, air, and water if in high enough quantities/levels.

In the area surrounding Yellowknife, Ndilǫ, and Dettah, the Government of the Northwest Territories, in collaboration with university researchers, has conducted monitoring and specific human health and ecological studies of arsenic levels in water, sediments, soils and fish.

Click here for more information on legacy arsenic and which locations are safe for fishing.

Waste Disposal

Throwing bait containers, fishing line, and other types of litter on the land, ice, or in the water can be dangerous to fish, wildlife and other people. It is also illegal and can carry significant fines.

  • Clean your catch at the shoreline, not in camp.
  • Place fish remains in tightly sealed plastic bags and pack them back to town.
  • Wash your hands, knives and cutting board after cleaning the fish.
  • Help keep the environment safe and clean for future generations.

Be Bear Aware

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, regularly stopping to scan for bears.
  • Make noise, especially when your visibility is limited.
  • If you are fishing along the shoreline, keep your fish on a stringer and closely attended.
  • Store your fish in a cool place and in a bear-resistant or odour-proof container.
  • Before you make a camp, check for signs of recent bear activity (tracks and droppings) or bear feeding activity (digging, animal remains or garbage). If you find any of these choose another place to camp.
  • Locate the food storage and cooking area separate from sleeping areas.
  • Clothes that may contain fish or cooking odours should not be brought into your tent, rather store them in the food and cooking area.
  • Keep a clean camp. Elimination of odour is essential.
  • For more information on being bear aware visit:  Bear safety

Invasive Species

Help keep aquatic invasive species out of NWT waters.

  • Alien species are plants, animals, and other organisms that are introduced to a new area by humans intentionally or by accident. Some are very small and can spread alarmingly fast when people accidentally carry them to new locations on their boats, cars, footwear, gear or firewood.
  • Clean, drain, and dry your watercraft and gear after each use on the water. 
  • Never release aquarium pets, water garden plants, live food (example: fish, crabs, mollusks) or live bait into rivers, streams, lakes, ponds or storm sewers.
  • Visit the NWT Council on Invasive Species, Pests, and Pathogens site for mor information on how you can help.

Issues and Concerns

Managing healthy and sustainable fisheries for all users is the goal of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. If you have any concerns or comments regarding the current management of recreational fisheries, we want to hear from you. Please send your comments to:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
PO Box 1871, Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0

or by email to:

Reporting Fishing Violations

Violations of renewable resource legislation are serious offences. If you see something suspicious or illegal, please call and provide as much detail as possible, including the date, time, location, vehicle licence plate, air registration letters or boat registration number and nature of the incident. Help stop violations.

Call 1-866-762-2437. This toll-free line is in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Information provided on the line is passed on to a Renewable Resource Officer and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.