2012 should be an interesting year for fishers in Northern Saskatchewan.
This weekend harvesters assembled in Prince Albert for their annual meeting.
They heard from a number of different guests including speakers from the provincial government and The Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation.
Topics raised included the drive for a new fish processing plant and the fishers’ recent withdrawal from the Corporation’s monopoly over sales of inland fish.
President of the Fishermen’s Co-op, Brian Macdonald, says he’s optimistic about the year but at the same time notes there are challenges.
He says he recently found out that despite the fishers’ withdrawal from the FFMC – they still cannot sell their catch to Alberta, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and some other provinces due to government regulations.
He says they will try to hold a meeting with the Alberta government to see what can be done.
Macdonald adds he doesn’t see why this should be the case though after the fishers entered a free market system.
Meantime a number of other fishers voiced concerns about various issues.
Ferdie Edquist and Louise Regan both fish in the Dore Lake region.
They think fishers may have to stay with the FFMC, at least until a fish processing plant can be built and new buyers are found.
Tommy Sanderson of La Ronge says fishers need a processing plant soon.
He is calling on aboriginal governments and the province to step forward with some help.
Brian Hardlotte is a vice-chief with the Prince Albert Grand Council.
He says the PAGC simply can’t build a plant by itself, but they are willing to work with fishers to see what can be done.
He also wants government to step in to help.
Another fisher from the Far North says he wants to see a price list from the FFMC soon while a harvester from Cumberland House says he worries more government red-tape could hamper fishers on the open market.
The FFMC says it has signed nine contracts with commercial co-ops, including two at today’s meeting.
Some of the contracts are merely until the end of the summer, while most are for one year and a few are for two years.
The Corporation’s Dave Northcutt also spoke out about some other business.
He says fishers should know that rumours indicating they wouldn’t be eligible for E.I. assistance are false.
He also stressed it’s not the FFMC that is preventing fishers from selling their catch to other provinces it’s due to government regulations.
He adds they are committed to working with Saskatchewan fishers and they can always exit out from contracts with the FFMC – provided they give 90 days’ notice.
He explains those same rules also hold true for the FFMC.