Some provincial fishery experts may believe the pickerel population is declining on Lake Winnipeg, but the minister responsible wants to fish for more information.

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Some provincial fishery experts may believe the pickerel population is declining on Lake Winnipeg, but the minister responsible wants to fish for more information.

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Tom Nevakshonoff said more data and information needs to be collected on the pickerel population before he would consider reducing the quota for the commercial fishery on Lake Winnipeg.

"Don’t jump to conclusions — keep a steady hand on the tiller," Nevakshonoff said on Thursday.

"This is cyclical. It could easily recover a year from now. Just a few years ago the numbers were good.

"We’re not jumping to conclusions."

Earlier this week, an official with the Fisheries Department said while 4.5 to five million kilograms of pickerel had been annually harvested from the lake by commercial fishers from 2005 to 2013, last year saw a decline to 3.5 million kilograms.

Geoff Klein, the department’s regional fisheries manager for Lake Winnipeg, also said he believes this year’s annual catch, which won’t end until March 31, 2016, may only hit three million. He added the pickerel mortality rate on the lake is 50 per cent instead of a sustainable 39 per cent.

But Nevakshonoff said many commercial fishers live in the riding he represents, Interlake, and he values their opinions as well as the opinions of provincial biologists. He said the fishers tell him the numbers are down but the fishery will rebound.

"We really need to find a balance and a sustainable balance," he said.

"Sustainability is the prime objective of Conservation and Water Stewardship."

Tory critic MLA Shannon Martin said he also wants to keep his line in the water a little longer before deciding whether it’s time to take action.

"I’m a numbers guy. You make the best decision with data," Martin said.

"But I don’t have the information yet to know if it is a problem alarm bells should be on or a blip.

"That being said, it’s always better to be in front of the issue rather than reacting. If government has to react, you’re dealing with a difficult situation in recovery of the stock."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.