Mr. Speaker, with viable markets, a healthy stock of freshwater fish, and growing interest, we are working with our partners and the fishers on Great Slave Lake to breathe new life into the Northwest Territories fishing industry. Today, I am pleased to share with Members some of the steps we are taking to encourage the resurgence of the NWT fishing industry.
The NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy recommended expanding three essential elements of the NWT fishing industry: the markets, the infrastructure and the workforce. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is now taking steps to implement those recommendations.
First off, we are working to establish a stronger commercial market for our fish here in the NWT.
Growing the demand within our territory will provide new income streams for the industry, support import substitution, and lessen our dependence on export markets.
We will be launching a campaign within the NWT to build the profile for fish harvested in the territory. This will include the design of a new brand, promotional items, recipe cards, sales information, and posters.
ITI is also using its Northern Food Development Program to move more fish into communities around Great Slave Lake and into the Beaufort Delta.
Revitalizing infrastructure is another area for improvement.
We have committed $200,000 this year to develop a building and financing plan in support of a fishery for Great Slave Lake and Kakisa. The intent is to leverage partnerships to design and construct a new export-grade plant for the fishery. We have identified $1.5 million in our 2015/16 business plan to help stimulate this development and look forward to working with our partners to move this important project forward.
Mr. Speaker, the third element to strengthening the NWT fishing industry is increasing the workforce.
It takes a great deal of skill to operate successfully within the fishing industry and I commend the Northerners who persevere season after season.In the summer of 2013 there was a total of 34 fishers from the NWT fishing on Great Slave Lake.
We are developing a strategy to attract new fishers from both inside and outside of the NWT. During the summer of 2013, seven individuals from Manitoba and Alberta launched vessels in Great Slave Lake as part of our fishery. Their harvest represented over 30 percent of the entire fishery’s income, totalling $1 million for the summer of 2013.
Through the revitalization of markets and infrastructure, we will grow our local workforce, and by recruiting beyond our borders we will help this industry reach its full potential.
Recent changes in provincial legislation and regulation in Alberta and Saskatchewan may create an added incentive for fishers from these provinces to consider moving their commercial fishing operations to the NWT, where we continue to work hard to grow the fishing industry. As interest and participation in our Great Slave Lake fishery grows, so will the availability of product, employment and local economies.
This government has worked alongside the NWT Fishermen’s Federation and the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation to harvest and market fish from Great Slave Lake and Kakisa. We continue to serve local industry through these partnerships and the experience, knowledge and input they bring to the table.
The objective of the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy is not simply to support small businesses in our territory, but also to establish competitive business environments in our regions and communities in which viable economic prospects can be identified, developed and realized.
Mr. Speaker, new markets are emerging for Great Slave Lake fish and, with them, new opportunities for those working in this sector. We are acting to stimulate a new era of self-sufficiency for the NWT’s fishery, and return it to the leading economic contributor it once was.
These developments are helping to create a diversified economy that provides all communities in the NWT with opportunities and choices.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.