New measures introduced to ensure sustainability of Lake Winnipeg fishery

Shores of Lake Winnipeg (Wikipedia)

Changes to affect size limits for walleye and sauger caught in the Winnipeg River below the Pine Falls Dam

By Don Norman

Local anglers will be affected by new measures introduced to ensure the sustainability of the Lake Winnipeg fishery. Starting April 1, 2020, a walleye or sauger must be a minimum length of 35 centimetres to be kept if they are caught in Lake Winnipeg, the Winnipeg River below the Pine Falls dam, Red River below the Lockport Dam or Saskatchewan River below the Grand Rapids dam.

However, while anglers are affected, the biggest impact is going to be on commercial fishers, mainly in terms of netting mesh size.

The Manitoba government has completed a successful round of quota buy-back from commercial fishers on Lake Winnipeg and based on the results of recent consultations, will implement new minimum mesh sizes for commercial fishers and new limits on the size of fish that can be kept by anglers to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the Lake Winnipeg fishery, Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires announced on May 6.

“Our government is committed to ensuring the sustainability of both the commercial and recreational fisheries while providing a strong foundation for shared management of our natural resources,” Squires said. “In order to ensure the sustainability of our lakes and support long-term economic growth, we must recognize and respect the science as part of our decision-making process.”

In March, the province announced the option of voluntary individual quota entitlement buyback for commercial fishers designed to relieve pressure on fish stocks in Lake Winnipeg. That buyback is now complete and the province was able to come to terms for the purchase of 126 individual quota entitlements from 90 fishers, representing almost 525,000 kilograms of fish. The total value of quota sold back to the province is almost $5.5 million. Fishers were paid $4 dollars per pound for north basin quota, $5 per pound for channel quota and $6 per pound for South Basin quota.

The province has consulted with commercial fishers and will be implementing a new minimum mesh size of three and one-half inches (in.) in the South Basin and channel areas, beginning with the spring 2020 commercial fishing season. The original consultation proposal was a minimum mesh size of three and three-quarter in. to take effect in fall 2019. The minimum mesh size and timing of these changes is a result of recent consultations and input from commercial fishers and industry stakeholders.

There will be no change to the current three and three-quarter in. minimum mesh size on the north basin.

In addition, the province has committed to share the underlying data on fish stock and will begin by making provincial index-netting data available to stakeholders online, as part of continuing work to develop a shared management model for the Lake Winnipeg fishery.