The goal of the forum was to hear from stakeholder groups about steps moving forward in the management and implementation of our province’s fisheries resource.
It has been obvious for years to many anglers in this province the government does not have any appetite for spending money on management and research.
Manitoba Fisheries currently has a working budget of $4.3 million. The economic impact generated from sport fishing in Manitoba is more than $400 million. This number is from a study done by Travel Manitoba in 2012. Brian Parker, senior fisheries manager for Manitoba, has suggested we look at different models that work in other jurisdictions that allow the public and private sectors to work together to generate sufficient funds to properly look after the fishery.
The ideal model, it seems, is to have a small management team oversee fisheries policy, with a separate entity responsible for implementation. Many provinces and states already have these types of agencies in place.
One need look no further than British Columbia. The Freshwater Fish Society of British Columbia (FFSBC) is responsible for all of the province’s freshwater hatcheries, plus restocking and angling education. It has worked very well, with angling efforts continuing to rise. It has also taken most of those headaches away from government.A professional, independent board was formed to manage day-to-day operations.
While only a portion of angling licence sales goes back to the Fisheries and Hunting Preservation Fund (FWEF) in Manitoba, all angling licence sales are allocated to the FFSBC. This also acts as a great incentive for the non-profit organization, as income is based on the success they have, a results-driven model that a Progressive Conservative government would buy into.
The FFSBC generates $15 million from licence sales alone. In Manitoba at the current rate, licence sales generate about $5.4 million per year. For this new agency to be effective in Manitoba, more money has to come from somewhere.There is no doubt that to be operational at least $10 million is needed for formation and implementation on a yearly basis.
Down the road, other revenue streams will be need to be found. The change in management structure will not come overnight. There will have to be much input and agreement from stakeholder groups in this province as to how to move forward. The government might want to consider hiring a consultant to help get the ball rolling.
The sooner this new agency gets in place, the better off our fisheries will be, given the almost total state of flux we are in right now with management of this precious resource.
For example, did you know the Freshwater Fish Marketing Agency was able to pay commercial fishermen top dollar for all big walleye delivered in the last year? While the average large walleye brought in to Freshwater is worth $19, Travel Manitoba and other agencies have put a sport fishing value of $400 on a trophy fish (28 inches or longer) caught and usually released in Manitoba. It just doesn’t make either economic or sustainable sense to kill your most valuable fish.
Scott Forbes is an ecologist at the University of Winnipeg who works on fish and wildlife. He and his students participated (pro bono) in the Eco certification of the Waterhen Lake fishery. He believes we need a moratorium on the roe fishery and mesh-size limits to protect the spawning stock on Lake Winnipeg.
“So much for the claim of the commercial fishers that they don’t need any management oversight because they always fished sustainably.”
If this keeps up, Forbes says we will see another collapse of the Lake Winnipeg fishery as we did in the 1960s. Forbes says with commercial catches of walleye in freefall, we are headed in that direction.