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This article was published 31/5/2016 (419 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg company wants to build a fish-processing plant near St. Laurent that would create more than 100 new jobs and help revive the commercial fishing industry on Lake Manitoba.
Although the proposal by CDF Community Development First has been in the planning and discussion stages for years, it has taken on new life with the recent election of a new provincial government.
The Progressive Conservatives promised during the election campaign that if elected, they would allow commercial fishermen to sell their catch to buyers other than the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. (FFMC). Under the current federal single-desk marketing system, the FFMC buys, processes, markets and exports most of the fish caught in the province.
'I think it willrevitalize thefishing industry. It has been slowly dying here on Lake Manitoba.It would make a huge comeback'-- Allan Gaudry, chairman, Lake Manitoba Commercial Fishermen Association
CDF chief marketing officer Terry Szydlik said the firm has already sent an information package to Cathy Cox, the province’s new minister of sustainable development. Now it’s waiting to hear if the Pallister government will seek federal approval for Manitoba to opt out of the single-desk system.
"We’re just basically waiting for that to happen," Szydlik said, adding the company has a business plan, has financing lined up, has selected a site, and has the support of the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent and the Lake Manitoba Commercial Fishermen Association.
"We have everything in place, ready to go. It’s just a matter of the act opening because we won’t be able to sell any fish without the act opening."
He said Manitoba wouldn’t be setting a precedent, since Saskatchewan and northern Ontario have already opted out of the single-desk system. He also noted the CDF plant would buy mainly "rough fish," which is the term used to describe less desirable species the FFMC doesn’t take — things such as mullet and carp. Fishermen would still continue to sell the more desirable species, such as pickerel (walleye) and perch, to the FFMC.
"We want to work with the FFMC as much as possible. If they want to take that other stuff (the more desirable species), we’ll take the rest...," he added.
The Department of Sustainable Development said in an email it’s working with commercial fishers, recreational anglers and others, to develop a strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of Manitoba’s commercial fisheries.
"As part of this process, staff will engage in a discussion with commercial fishers about how best to market Manitoba’s fish," it added. "The potential for a fish plant can be part of this discussion."
A spokesperson for the RM of St. Laurent could not be reached for comment. However, the fishers’ association chairman, Allan Gaudry, confirmed it is keen to see the CDF project proceed.
Gaudry said not only would the CDF plant buy the fish that Lake Manitoba fishermen catch in their nets but the FFMC won’t take, it would accept them in the round, or whole.
"That would be so helpful for fishers. They could spend more time fishing, instead of dressing fish," he added.
He estimated having someone to buy the fish that now gets tossed back into the lake would boost the yearly income of Lake Manitoba fishermen by at least 50 per cent, and help attract more people back into the industry. He said there are only about 100 licensed fishermen working on Lake Manitoba, compared with 459 in the early 1990s.
"I think it will revitalize the fishing industry. It has been slowly dying here on Lake Manitoba. It would make a huge comeback."
Szydlik said if CDF gets the go-ahead, it would take 18 to 24 months to build the new plant and train the first batch of employees. Production would be ramped up gradually, and within five years of construction getting underway, the plant would have more than 100 employees and would process about 100 million pounds of fish per year, he added.