Winnipeg: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released Free to Fish: How a How a Freshwater Fish Monopoly is Impoverishing Aboriginal Fishers. The author of the paper is Joseph Quesnel, a policy analyst at the Frontier Centre with a specialization in Aboriginal policy issues.
For decades, the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation (FFMC) has forced commercial fishers from across the West and parts of northwestern Ontario to sell their fish through the monopoly.
However, there is much dissatisfaction with the FFMC. In April 2012, Saskatchewan removed itself from the monopoly as had done northwestern Ontario in 2011. The Northwest Territories is studying options for leaving as well.
In this study, it is demonstrated that the FFMC, while well-intentioned, has now encountered less favourable market conditions. For example, payments for all species of fish, including higher-end species such as Pickerel and Whitefish, have been declining over the past decade. Factors exacerbating the situation include higher energy costs and a higher Canadian dollar.
For indigenous communities, the problems are exacerbated because Metis and First Nation communities catch “rough species” (like Mullet and Carp) that are not as lucrative and these communities must transport their fish far away to Winnipeg adding to costs.
Isolated northern reserves and Metis communities known for fishing are becoming more impoverished and Aboriginal leaders have called for First Nations to seek new markets on their own.
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal commercial fishers are being approached by fish processors seeking to set up new processing plants. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal fishers are interested in emerging Asian markets, such as China where increased economic growth is fuelling demand for seafood. In this age of sophisticated fishers using the Internet, opportunities are much easier to find.
“To maximize market opportunities, the FFMC should slowly become a private company and all fishers should be free to sell and market as they see fit,” said study author Joseph Quesnel. “In the meantime, the provinces and territory remaining in the FFMC should consider either opting out or pushing to have certain species of fish, such as the rough species, removed from the FFMC’s jurisdiction.”
Independent economists at the University of Guelph determined that after a period of initial adjustment, returns for fishers would most likely go up and the private sector is best able to deal with changing conditions.
“The best option is to trust that fishers can find new opportunities and weather the transition, with some one-time government help,” concluded Quesnel.
Download a copy of Free To Fish: How a Freshwater Fish Monopoly is Impoverishing Aboriginal Fishers HERE.
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study's author, media (only) should contact:
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
Tel: (403) 381-0342