+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 7-15S

Reinstatement of Commercial Fishing Quotas on Alberta Lakes

February 23, 2015
Expiry Date:
April 1, 2018
Active Status:
Mackenzie County
4 - Northern
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the Alberta commercial fishing industry was created in 1910, when Alberta issued its first commercial licence, ensuring all Albertans have access to a fresh food supply as is recommended in the Canadian Food Guide; and

WHEREAS prior to August 1, 2014, eight zones in Alberta were identified for commercial fishing with a total of 66 lakes (Zone A – 23, Zone B – 3, Zone C – 7, Zone D – 20, Zone E – 10, Zone F – 0, Zone G – 2, Zone H – 1); and

WHEREAS in 2012 Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) engaged Dr. Colby of Ontario to independently assess lakes in Zone E, with regards to the commercial fishing industry, with an undesirable outcome for Zone E; and

WHEREAS ESRD closed all lakes in Alberta to commercial fishing on August 1, 2014, stating “an extensive third-party review have been completed to assess the long-term viability of Alberta’s commercial fishery and determined that Alberta’s commercial fishery is no longer viable.” [1], while utilizing Dr. Colby’s report for Zone E and some unidentified additional provincial assessments; and

WHEREAS ESRD released the latest Fish Conservation and Management Strategy for Alberta in September 2014, in order to “provide economic and biodiversity benefits and to enrich the quality of life for Albertans” [2], with ESRD’s mandate “to develop an integrated resource management system” that “identifies and achieves the environmental, economic and social outcomes that Albertans expect from resource development and maintains the government’s social licence to develop resource through the province” 2; and

WHEREAS ESRD’s Fish Conservation and Management Strategy highlights public involvement and consultation as one of its priorities and objectives as “stakeholder’s expectations, biological realities and desired outcomes must be aligned to foster good decision making” [3]; and

WHEREAS Alberta’s municipalities support ESRD’s strategy; however, ESRD has selected not to undertake assessments of other Zones or to undertake public and stakeholder consultations in all Zones prior to closing the commercial fishing industry in Alberta; and

WHEREAS ESRD selected to close all lakes to commercial fishing due to the perceived high cost to maintain the provincial licensing system, fishery regulation, monitoring, and enforcement for a few lakes; and

WHEREAS commercial fishing is a livelihood for many commercial fishermen in rural Alberta.  The blanket suspension of the fishing industry in Alberta has created unnecessary hardships for many rural Albertans that conducted their fishing operations in a responsible and sustainable manner from the lakes that have not been scientifically identified to be “in danger”;


 [3] Pg. 39, Fish Conservation and Management Strategy, AB ESRD

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) to reinstate the commercial fish quotas on all lakes that were not assessed by the Colby Report, and commence an assessment of each individual Zone, with stakeholder input, to determine the sustainability of Alberta’s commercial fishing industry, to ensure that the lakes, the industry, and the food source are sustainable in the future for all Albertans; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that ESRD engages the stakeholders of Zone E, and reassesses the Commercial Fishing Industry and practices in Zone E.

Member Background:

Mackenzie County was notified by local commercial fishermen in June 2014 regarding letters received from ESRD advising of their decision to close commercial fishing:

“This decision has been made to address concerns that have been highlighted over the past few years.  To help understand these concerns, the Government of Alberta, in collaboration with the commercial fisheries, facilities an independent, third-party review of commercial fishing on selected lakes which was prepared and written by Dr. Peter Colby of Ontario.”

On July 15, 2014, MackenzieCounty sent a letter requesting that commercial fishing be reinstated at Zone G lakes and suggested implementing a ten-year moratorium for transferring of licenses for the BistchoLake.

On August 1, 2014 MackenzieCounty received a response from ESRD stating:

“Over the last few years many concerns have been raised about the sustainability of Alberta’s commercially fished lakes, including apportionment of fish between user groups and the difficulties in commercial fisheries avoiding sport fish by-catch.  In response, ESRD worked with commercial fishers to develop a third-party independent review of commercial fishing management.  Following this review the Colby Report was prepared.  ESRD has accepted this report and, following additional provincial assessments, concluded the long-term sustainability of commercially fished lakes is no longer viable.”

Further, in December 2014 the local commercial fishermen received letters from ESRD offering “an ex grata payment” based on the number of licensed nets that were assigned for the 2013 fishing season.  This has amounted to $100 per licensed net.

On January 9, 2015 MackenzieCounty sent a letter respectfully stating that “a blanket” suspension of commercial fishing in all lakes is not fair.

On February 2, 2015 MackenzieCounty received a letter from ESRD stating:

“While a small number of lakes may be sustainable for commercial fishing, the cost would be prohibitive for maintaining the provincial licensing system, fishery regulation, monitoring, and enforcement for so few lakes.”

Additional Member Background

RMA Background:

The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Government Response:

Environment and Parks: Reinstating a commercial fishery is not a viable option and the decision to close it is not being reconsidered by the Government of Alberta. The fishery closure decision was made to maximize the benefits to Albertans from the province’s fishery resources.

Consultation with commercial fishers to find solutions to fishery conflict and sustainability issues has been extensive over many years. The Colby Review was the culmination of this process, and was agreed to jointly by fisheries managers and commercial fishers.

The sustainability of 102 commercially-fished lakes across all zones in the province was evaluated. Only nine lakes were determined to be viable commercial fisheries in the foreseeable future, and some of these fisheries would have still required substantial changes. Overall, maintaining a provincial commercial fishery on the basis of the very small number of potential sustainable minor fisheries available is not practical.

The decision supports positive economic outcomes for northern communities from strengthened recreational fisheries and increased angling-related expenditures. These benefits are expected to be greater than the loss of commercial fishing. Lakes such as Lesser Slave, Snipe and Winagami are expected to attract more recreational anglers as the numbers of large pike and walleye increase.


The government response asserts that the closure of Alberta’s commercial fishing industry will not be reconsidered or evaluated on a zone by zone basis. As stakeholders in all zones were not provided an adequate opportunity to provide input in to the decision prior to closure, the AAMDC has deemed this resolution Intent Not Met, and will continue to advocate for a discussion on the viability of Alberta’s commercial fishing industry that includes input from stakeholders in all zones.

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