Gimli council asks province to reconsider fishing limits

Rural Municipality of Gimli councillor Thora Palson (right, beside mayor Lynn Greenberg) reads a resolution calling on the provincial government to reverse new proposed limits to Lake Winnipeg fishers at a Gimli council meeting in Gimli, Man. on May 8, 2019. (Adam Peleshaty/The Interlake Spectator)

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Council for the RM of Gimli passed a resolution at a meeting on May 8 asking the province to reverse new limits announced for commercial fishers on Lake Winnipeg.

The province announced on May 6, after consultations with local fishers, minimum mesh sizes for nets on the South Basin and channel areas have been reduced from three and three-quarter inches to three-and-a-half inches beginning in the spring of 2020. The province also set a new minimum size of 35 centimetres for walleye or sauger to be caught and kept by anglers on Lake Winnipeg, as well as had instituted a voluntary quota buy-back program last March.

“These changes will allow a greater proportion of smaller fish to grow to spawning size and increase the overall natural productivity of the lake,” Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said in a release.

In response to these changes, council unanimously passed a resolution, originally proposed by councillor Thora Palson, criticizing the recent measures by the province.

The resolution stated that the change in net size will reduce the catch of marketable fish and will have an adverse impact on the economy of Lake Winnipeg communities. It also mentioned that the province has already made strides to prolong the sustainability of the Lake Winnipeg fishery by protecting spawning grounds and improving water management.

“We are trying to support the commercial (fishers),” Gimli mayor Lynn Greenberg said. “We’ve heard from fishers quite forcefully they want to keep (the mesh size) at (three and three-quarter) inches. This is our part to lobby the province.”

“We recognize that that industry is critically important. It’s been here for over 100 years,” councillor Peter Holfeuer added.

Alta Greens Ally motion tabled

Council decided to table a motion allowing the construction of a medical cannabis cultivation plant over doubts on whether the company can obtain a license from Health Canada among other issues.

In January, council voted to sell a parcel of land owned by the RM in the Gimli Industrial Park to Calgary-based start-up firm Alta Greens Ally. However, an apparent lack of a business plan and prolonged negotiations to enter into a development agreement between the company and the RM have caused wariness among council.

The company’s realtor, Judith Arnason, told council at the meeting that Alta Greens Ally would have to begin construction before obtaining a Health Canada license to cultivate medical cannabis, but also acknowledged it’s a “risk on both sides.”

Palson expressed opposition to the project, citing the process as well as water supply concerns. Greenberg then accused her of not being entirely forthcoming on her position after meeting with realtors and lawyers regarding the project.

“At the end of the day, Thora, are you just totally opposed to it? Just vote that way at the end and say, ‘I’m opposed. I don’t want to,’” Greenberg said.

“I think we should be engaging with an economic development consultant,” Palson replied, adding that Alta Greens Ally need to provide documentation on matters such as building plans and environmental assessments. “There have been so many red flags and we’ve received so much contradictory information. I’ll even say the (words), ‘been lied to.’”