For the first time in 15 years, the territorial government says, the Great Slave Lake winter fishery has reopened in a new pilot program.
Under the program, the Hay River packing facility will receive and grade fish from commercial fishers in Yellowknife and Hay River. The fish will then be shipped to the federal Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in Winnipeg for processing and sale.
In a news release on Tuesday morning, the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment said the program will run for up to eight weeks and help fishers to access winter-specific equipment.
The Tu’Cho Fishers’ Cooperative is reopening and operating the Hay River fish plant.
The territory expects seven commercial fishing businesses will be involved.
The territorial and Indigenous governments have also partnered to train community members to work in the fishery.
In August, the territorial government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tu’Cho Fishers’ Cooperative to revitalize the territory’s commercial fishing sector and improve food security in the North.
“One of the steps that we must take is to secure a year-round supply of fresh Great Slave Lake fish for market. This requires that we invest in the revitalization of our winter fishery,” Cameron Beaverbones, president of the fishers’ cooperative, said in a statement.
The NWT government has committed to opening a new fish plant in Hay River. While construction was initially supposed to finish in late 2020, it has been delayed due to higher-than-anticipated costs.
“In time, our plan is to see new and year-round jobs in processing, packaging, selling and transporting NWT fish to market,” said industry minister Caroline Wawzonek, “as well as new products, including more opportunities for NWT residents to access fresh, healthy, locally-produced food.”