The province has informed the federal government, pursuant to its Participation Agreement under the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act, that it will be withdrawing its participation. This the first step toward allowing Manitoba fishers the opportunity to market their own products outside Manitoba. The Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation (FFMC), a federal Crown corporation, will continue to exist as a marketing option for those fishers who choose to continue to utilize its services.
“Our government will be pursuing consultation with all affected partners including the federal government, the commercial fishing industry as well Indigenous and Métis fishers from all regions of the province,” said Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox. “This collaborative approach will ensure that Manitoba fishers have a seat at the table as we make progress on delivering marketing choice.”
The Manitoba government will assign a fisheries envoy to oversee the process of opting out of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act and effectively carry out negotiations and consultations with the federal government and fishers.
The commercial fishery generates $21 million in direct income to fishers in Manitoba per year. Manitoba’s fish products are sold primarily to the United States, as well as in European, Israeli and Chinese markets. The fishery takes place primarily in Lake Winnipeg, Lake Winnipegosis and Lake Manitoba but also includes some smaller operations across northern Manitoba. Species harvested commercially in Manitoba include walleye, goldeye, northern pike, sauger, lake whitefish and lake trout.
“Today’s announcement is a victory for Manitoba fishers, one that will allow them to compete more effectively in the world’s seafood market,” Rick Wowchuk, legislative assistant, Manitoba Sustainable Development, said at an event on behalf of the minister. “Manitoba fish products are world class and our government is confident the creation of flexibility in how our fishers market their product will allow them to maximize the economic potential of an open market.”
The Norway House Fisherman’s Co-op is the largest single commercial fishing operation in Manitoba. Based in Norway House Cree Nation, the operation consists of nearly 50 full-time commercial fishers and produces a quota of nearly one million kilograms each year.
“We are pleased with the Manitoba government’s decision to allow for and create flexible marketing options for commercial fishers,” said Chief Ron Evans, Norway House Cree Nation. “We have been exploring options as of late, especially opportunities to sell rough fish to foreign markets. We look forward to working with the Department of Sustainable Development in developing a process that will provide the necessary supports and resources to create an efficient, viable and successful flexible option model. In the meantime, the Norway House Fisherman’s Co-op will maintain its relationship with and continue to work through the Fresh Water Fish Marketing Corporation, which has provided stability and security for our fishers.”
“For our Métis community throughout Manitoba, the commercial fisheries are the foundation of our economy,” said David Chartrand, president, Manitoba Metis Federation. “In some areas, it is the only source of income to support our Métis fishers and their families. I commend Minister Cox and the Manitoba government on their vision for a responsible approach with direct accountability to the fishers. The Métis make up a significant portion of fishers in the freshwater fish industry; a fishery in desperate need of renewal and investment. This new direction will give the industry a chance to survive and will open opportunities for fishers province wide.”
“Manitoba fishers will benefit greatly from the province’s move to create market flexibility in our commercial fishery,” said Barry Matkowski, a Gimli-area fisher. “As fishers in Manitoba, we have a great product to market and work hard to make it available to consumers in Canada and around the world. We thank the provincial government for granting us the flexibility to seek out marketing options and increase our earning potential.”