June 24, 2014 7:23 pm

Manitoba’s fishing industry threatened by polluted waters

The Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation brings in $70-million per year into Manitoba's economy.

Josh Arason / Global News

WINNIPEG – Experts are calling for immediate changes to reduce chemical nutrient levels in Lake Winnipeg to save a multi-million dollar a year industry.

The Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation buys fish from commercial anglers across the prairies and processes it at its Transcona plant. The final product is shipped to sixteen countries around the world.

“Most of our frozen business is going to restaurants,” said John Wood, president and CEO of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation.

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Sixty per cent of the federally owned corporation’s fish supply is caught in Lake Winnipeg. That’s why Wood is worried rising phosphours and nitrogen levels. With farming and the hog industry and putting Manitoba’s largest lake at risk.

“The long term (concern) would be if there’s any issues with the lake that would reduce fish stocks and reduce the volume we have available for us,” said Wood.

Fewer fish also means less work for the company’s 270-plus employees.

“We would start by reducing from two shifts to one,” said Wood. “Or we might close for part of the year.”

“The reality is if we let Lake Winnipeg die, our fishing industry will also die with it,” said Dave Angus, the president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

Manitoba’s lakes and rivers drain millions of dollars into the province’s economy. Freshwater Fish alone reels in roughly $70-million a year.

“There’s a lot of things connected to water that we don’t recognize and there’s a huge economic impact when things go south,” said Angus.

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