The economic effect of winter fishing on Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg over the past 15 years has become a popular place for winter fishing, and the results of a recently published market study paint a powerful picture of the impact of recreational fishing on the region's economy.

At the request of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, Winnipeg-based Probe Research surveyed more than 700 fishermen who were fishing in Winnipeg Lake in winter.

The bottom line: a “green” approach to Lake Winnipeg means big money in Manitoba’s economy. That means much more dollars than the commercial fish industry, which historically dominated the lake with an approach that led to the fact that salmon was on the verge of extinction.

“During the fishing season, I could probably fill two more hotels,” says Andrea Gruyters, general manager of the Canalta Hotel in Selkirk, Manitoba.

Some of the highlights of the survey:

Nearly 100,000 adult fishermen have fished on Lake Winnipeg and its southern tributaries over the past two years. These fishermen spent $ 221 million - direct expenses. These expenses added $ 102 million to the province’s gross domestic product and $ 44 million in wages, supporting more than 1,500 jobs and $ 52 million in taxes.

For comparison, the commercial fishing industry of Lake Winnipeg for two years contributed $ 29 million in GDP, supporting 696 jobs - $ 20.5 million in wages and $ 8 million in tax revenues.

At the same time, commercial fishermen caught more than 10 million pounds of fish from Lake Winnipeg every year from 2000 to 2010, and to date, that number has dropped to less than 6 million pounds.

“The problem of reducing fish stocks in Lake Winnipeg is a direct result of commercial fisheries policies that are not based on science,” said Dr. Brian Kotak, Managing Director of the Wildlife Federation of Manitoba.

The task, he said, is to find a sustainable balance that will not occur without changing the methods of managing the lake. 

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