Canadian walleye, northern pike fisheries gain MSC certification

Cedar Lake fishing.

A walleye and northern pike fishery in the Canadian province of Manitoba has achieved Marine Stewardship Council certification.

Cedar Lake is the province’s fourth-largest commercial fishery, and the certification was made possible through a multi-year collaboration between Cedar Lake Fisheries Inc., the Chemawawin Cree Nation, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), and the province of Manitoba. This collaboration and partnership aims to increase employment protection and revenue stability for Northern and Indigenous communities, secure greater food security in remote areas, and ensure access to fishery resources for recreational users and commercial tourism operators all through the lake fisheries’ sustainable management.

The fishery accounts for about 135 metric tons (MT) of northern pike and 220 MT of walleye. It is only the third MSC-certified fishery in Canada and second in the province of Manitoba. The MSC certification process took 13 months to achieve. 

“Becoming an MSC eco-certified fishery is a great accomplishment that will contribute to the livelihood of fishers and their families, and their communities of Chemawawin Cree Nation and the nearby Métis community of Easterville," Indigenous Services Canada Minister Patty Hajdu said in a press release. "Indigenous fishers have been leaders in sustainability for generations and this recognition will help them gain access to market demand for sustainably harvested fish.”

Due to a collapse of the fishery in 1996, fishermen voluntarily closed the commercial fishery from 1998 to 2003 to give all fish stocks time to recover. A collaborative stock monitoring program allowing the collection and sharing of essential data was put in place in order for Cedar Lake fishery to enter MSC assessment.

“We are extremely proud of what our fishers have achieved with the support of our partners,” Cedar Lake Fisheries President Floyd George said. “Being able to scientifically demonstrate the sustainability of our fishery through MSC certification will support not only the long-term health of our lake but also our community because credible sustainable management is what buyers demand.”

The fishery supports 90 employees from fishers to helpers, and fish shed workers, all from the Chemawawin Cree Nation and the Metis community of Easterville. This artisanal fishery operates in the summer season from 1 June to 31 October and then in the winter season from 1 November to 31 March. These conditions require aluminum boats in summer and snowmobiles and Bombardiers in the winter, along with the labor of picking each fish out of the mesh nets one by one.

“Everyone who worked towards the Cedar Lake fishery certification has demonstrated that fisheries of all sizes, compositions, and located everywhere in the world can meet a global standard like the MSC fisheries standard for sustainable fishing,” MSC in Canada Program Director Kurtis Hayne said. “We congratulate and applaud their achievement and welcome them to the program.”

Photo courtesy of IISD


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