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Cedar Lake, Manitoba becomes Canada's third MSC certified sustainable freshwater fishery

Credit: IISD (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Credit: IISD (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The Cedar Lake Walleye and Northern Pike Fisheries has achieved eco-certification to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) internationally recognized standard for sustainable fishing. The fishery is the second freshwater fishery in the province of Manitoba and only the third in Canada to enter the MSC program. Manitoba is also the only source of MSC certified Northern pike in the world.

Following an in-depth 13-month assessment the fishery was independently certified by third-party auditor Lloyd’s Register that scored the fishery against 28 detailed MSC performance indicators related to stock health, overall environmental impact, and effective management. MSC certification is expected to help secure broader access to both domestic and international markets for the fishery’s artisanal products.

“Congratulations to Cedar Lake Fisheries on their achievement as a well-managed and sustainable freshwater commercial fishery,” said the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada. “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 fishers have been leaders in sustainability for generations and this recognition will help them gain access to market demand for sustainably harvested fish.”

Cedar Lake is located approximately 460 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg and is the province’s fourth largest commercial fishery. It is expected add approximately 135 metric tonnes of Northern pike and 220 metric tonnes of walleye to the provincial volume of MSC certified lake fish.

“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,” said Kurtis Hayne, Program Director for the MSC in Canada. “We congratulate and applaud their achievement and welcome them to the program.”

Partnerships drive progress

MSC certification of the fishery is the result of a multi-year collaboration between the fish harvesters of Cedar Lake Fisheries Inc., the Chemawawin Cree Nation, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), and the province of Manitoba.

It is supported by the ISC’s Indigenous Inland Commercial Fisheries Initiative (IICFI) that brings together federal, provincial, and Indigenous partners in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to sustain and grow the Indigenous commercial fishing industry.

“We are extremely proud of what our fishers have achieved with the support of our partners,” said Floyd George, President of Cedar Lake Fisheries Inc. “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.”

Through the sustainable management of lake fisheries, the partnership seeks 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 who contribute to Northern economic health and prosperity.

Small scale fisheries support communities and livelihoods

The small scale, artisanal fishery provides jobs for approximately 90 fishers, helpers and fish shed workers from the Chemawawin Cree Nation and the Metis community of Easterville.

It operates two distinct seasons: a summer fishing season (June 1 to October 31) that is conducted from small fibreglass or aluminum boats 6 to 8 metres long, and a winter season (November 1 to March 31) that is conducted on ice with snowmobiles and Bombardiers for transportation. Both entail highly manual work requiring fishermen to pick enmeshed fish one by one from their nets.

Good stewardship leads to recovery.

 After the collapse of the fishery in 1996, fishermen approached the Manitoba government to discuss the need for change in the management of the fishery. Fishermen agreed to cedar_lake_summary from 1998 to 2003 to allow the fish stocks to rebuild, after which a revitalization plan was enacted to reduced fishing licenses to a more viable number while offering new career training and bridging employment for those who left the fishery.

Following years of additional improvements including a Collaborative Stock Monitoring Program that engages fishermen in the collection of fisheries data essential to science-based management of the lake, in November 2021 the Cedar Lake fishery was able to enter MSC assessment.

For more information about the fishery’s MSC certificate visit Track a Fishery at