Press release

Manitoba freshwater fishery enters MSC assessment: Waterhen Lake Walleye and Northern Pike Commercial Gillnet Fishery

December 20, 2012

The Waterhen Lake walleye and northern pike commercial gillnet fishery has entered into independent, third-party assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) principles and criteria for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. If successful, this will be the first fresh-water lake fishery in North America to achieve MSC certification. 

About the fishery

The Waterhen Lake fishery is a winter fishery with gillnets set beneath the ice and is open when ice forms on or after November 1 to as late as March 31. The commercial gillnet fishery operates on a Canadian inland freshwater lake known as Waterhen Lake, located in Manitoba, Canada. The assessment of the fishery will include all 22 commercial licensed fish harvesters operating on Waterhen Lake. The assessment includes two units of certification defined by the two species fished in these waters. The lake is shallow, its average depth is 3.7 meters and it is approximately 34 kilometers long and 8 kilometers wide. The fishery is managed by the Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship, Fisheries Branch under provincial law related to use of the fish, and under federal law related to fish and habitat conservation within terms of an agreement with Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). There is an annual total allowable catch (TAC) for competitively harvested walleye of 36,300 kilograms. Northern pike catches are not managed through a TAC but the annual volumes are similar to walleye.

Both species are sold either as fresh and/or frozen product in multiple forms by the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

What the fishery says

Commercial fishers of the Waterhen Lake Commercial Fishermen's Association confirm their support of efforts to achieve certification of the Waterhen Lake commercial gillnet fishery under the Marine Stewardship Council certification program.

“Proceeding with the full assessment of the Waterhen Lake walleye and northern pike commercial gillnet fishery is an important step forward in the joint efforts of the province and commercial fishers to certify Manitoba’s commercial fisheries,” said Gord Mackintosh, Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship for Manitoba. “I want to commend the fishers of Waterhen Lake for their leadership and commitment to the sustainable management and operation of this important commercial fishery, as well as the Skownan First Nation and communities of Waterhen and Mallard for their support throughout this process.”

"We fully support the work being done to explore the way forward to certification of lakes in the Province. The future of the freshwater fishery will depend on it," said John Wood, President and CEO of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation.

What the MSC says

Kerry Coughlin, Regional Director, Americas, said: “We’re pleased this Waterhen Lake fishery has entered into assessment for certification to the MSC standard. This is a freshwater fishery, and a relatively small fishery.  Their engagement demonstrates that, regardless of size and type, a commitment by fish harvesters, processors and management authorities to assuring and communicating sustainability is important to preserving fish as a natural and essential food resource. We hope the Association is successful in becoming the first MSC-certified freshwater lake fishery in North America.”

About the certifier

Independent certifier Intertek Moody Marine (IMM) will conduct the assessment of this fishery against the MSC standard. Amanda Park, IMM lead auditor for this assessment, can be reached at Stakeholders with an interest in the fishery are encouraged to provide comments and information for this assessment process.

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