Fisheries

Minister John Parenteau

Many challenges were realized in the year of 2020, with these challenges persisting into 2021. With the wisdom gained from the first year of the pandemic, we were able to adapt and succeed in some important areas of the Fisheries portfolio. The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) took steps toward protecting and advocating the rights and interests of Métis commercial fishers and the inland fishing industry to ensure its sustainability and profitability for future generations.

Minister of Fisheries, John Parenteau, made it his top priority to lead, work with, and keep the Manitoba Métis Community updated with developments within the industry. The Fisheries portfolio covers all aspects of fish and fish habitat, including:

  • Engaging Manitoba and Canada on projects affecting resources and the environment,

  • Protecting and advocating for Métis commercial fishers,

  • And building valuable skills in Métis Citizens towards fish and fish habitat protection and stewardship.

The MMF worked on several key projects impacting the inland fisheries, our fish, and fish habitat, including an aquatic invasive species initiative, commercial fishing, rearing ponds and fish hatchery, and new Artic region and northern low impact shipping corridors.

AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES INITIATIVE

In 2019, the MMF began working on an Aquatic Invasive Species ("AIS") initiative funded by the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk. The MMF hoped to use the AIS initiative to provide Watercraft Inspection Training: Level 1 certification to Métis Citizens to increase awareness and identify AIS to help reduce its spread. The project would also create an opportunity for Citizens to return to their community and create awareness regarding approved processes and mitigation measures for AIS. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the courses could not proceed. Instead, the MMF held virtual information sessions providing valuable knowledge on Aquatic Invasive Species and Species at Risk identification. The MMF provided 50 Citizens attending the virtual information sessions with AIS Toolkits to help them identify AIS species in the field. The MMF set up databases to keep records of the data Citizens find through their continued efforts to stop the spread of AIS throughout Manitoba.

COMMERCIAL FISHING

On May 8, 2019, the MMF, in coordination with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. ("MKO") and Southern Chiefs Organization ("SCO"), held a Commercial Fishers Emergency Meeting. The meeting consisted of presentations and breakout group discussions dealing with the inland commercial fishing industry. Attendees shared their pressing concerns, including those regarding the Lake Winnipeg quota buy-back option and the new change to fishing mesh size regulations. There is general unease about the industry's future and, therefore, a desire to work together to ensure industry sustainability. The MMF plans to hold a validation meeting in response to the 2019 emergency meeting in fall 2021 once COVID-19 public health restrictions allow it.

In January 2021, the MMF launched the MMF Commercial Fisher Net Program. This program allowed for active Métis commercial fishers to apply to receive ten commercial-grade fishing nets free of charge. The program has helped over 100 commercial fishers and will enable them to fish the 2021-2022 winter season with some extra resources.

Last year, the MMF launched the Fish Distribution Initiative, where the MMF provided pickerel and whitefish to those Métis Citizens and their families who signed up. The MMF distributed thousands of pounds of fish across Manitoba to help hundreds of Citizens support their families.

REARING PONDS AND FISH HATCHERY

The Manitoba Métis Community has raised interest in investing in rearing ponds and fish hatcheries. Rearing ponds the MMF established near St. Laurent were damaged by flooding. Due to a lack of funding, the MMF has yet to restore these ponds. However, the MMF is currently researching opportunities to restore and re-establish these rearing ponds. The rearing ponds project will help fish stocks in Manitoba lakes and provide training and employment opportunities for Métis Citizens.

NEW ARCTIC REGION AND NORTHERN LOW IMPACT SHIPPING CORRIDORS

In 2018, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced the development of a new Arctic Region. This new Arctic Region will be a stand-alone region, managed independently and encompassing approximately 50 per cent of Canada's coastline. The intention is to improve program and service delivery in the north and ensure Indigenous Communities are directly involved in decisions impacting their resources and environment.

The Northern Low Impact Shipping Corridors initiative, established by Canada's Ocean's Protection Plan, was created due to the increased use of northern seas for shipping due to climate change and seasonal ice changes. As the Arctic shipping season remains open for longer on average, and new ocean shipping corridors are opening due to global climate change, new opportunities and risks are arising for the Manitoba Métis Community on the Hudson Bay coast.

On February 29, 2020, the MMF held a community meeting in Thompson, MB. MMF staff provided a presentation to inform participants of current and changing conditions in the north and proposed changes for the new Arctic Region. The MMF submitted a high-level report to Canada summarizing the thoughts, comments, recommendations, and concerns Métis Citizens shared at the meeting. Through these files, the MMF was able to build capacity within the Métis Government. The Manitoba Métis Community can expect another round of engagement sessions in winter 2021.

For questions concerning the Fisheries portfolio, you may contact Jenny Ruml, Fish and Fish Habitat Specialist, by phone at (204) 586-8474 or by email at jenny.ruml@mmf.mb.ca.

And for questions concerning the Northern Low Impact Shipping Corridors and New Arctic Region files within the Fisheries portfolio, you may contact Riley Bartel, Conservation and Lands Coordinator, by phone at (204) 586-8474 or by email at riley.bartel@mmf.mb.ca.

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