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Cloud cast over fish biz
Manitoba could pull out of Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Monday, June 26, 2017

The future - or possibly the lack thereof - of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in the NWT was discussed recently in the legislative assembly.

Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson criticized the role of the corporation in Hay River.

In late May, Simpson noted all fish caught in the NWT and sold across the border must go through the federal Crown corporation.

"When the corporation was established nearly 50 years ago, it was done so with the best of intentions," he said.

"However, this month's auditor general's report confirmed what has been common knowledge in Hay River for decades: that Freshwater (Fish Marketing Corporation)is not serving the best interests of our fishermen.

"The AG found many weaknesses, significant deficiencies, and outright failures in the oversight, management and operation of the corporation."

These conclusions are no surprise to anyone familiar with the commercial fishing industry, he added.

"The only surprise is that things have actually gotten worse since the AG released a similar report in 2010."

Simpson said the core purpose of the corporation is to maximize returns for fishers.

"However, it is the fishermen who have borne the fiscal costs of (the corporation's) ineptitude," he said.

Simpson said a "physical manifestation" of the corporation's failings is its Hay River fish plant, which has been demoted to a receiving plant.

"Fish are now trucked from Hay River to Winnipeg to be processed," he noted.

Simpson pointed out that Manitoba is set to withdraw from the corporation this year, meaning only NWT fishers will be obliged to sell their fish to it.

The MLA said the NWT is hitching its wagon to a dying horse with the corporation.

Simpson asked the Infrastructure and Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann about possibly of the corporation getting the Hay River fish plant rebuilt or refurbished - or whether the GNWT would build one.

Schumann only noted the corporation's future is uncertain with the situation in Manitoba.

"We have been working with Freshwater to this point, and it has been very challenging," he said,

Simpson then asked Schumann at what point would the territorial government be prepared to pull away from Freshwater and just build a fish plant itself.

"I am not sure if this is the time to be walking away from the table, just yet, because this is going to take a lot of resources to get this figured out," said Schumann.

He said he hopes there will be some solution between the GNWT and the federal government in the near future.

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