The Nelson River lake sturgeon fishery, from the perspective of the bayline communities of pikwitonei, thicket portage, and wabowden

Thumbnail Image
MacDonell, Donald S.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This report documents results of a study to collect local knowledge and historical information about lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) populations in the upper Nelson River, Manitoba from the three Co-management Board Bayline communities of Wabowden, Thicket Portage, and Pikwitonei. Information was collected by interviewing long-time users of the resource and by searching through literature and government files. Information was categorized as "historical" or "local/traditional" knowledge. A commercial fishery was established on the upper Nelson River during the early 1900s, but transportation difficulties hindered its development. The fishery was closed for the first time in 1911 because of concern over the depleted Lake Winnipeg stock. Completion of the Hudson Bay Railway to Kettle Rapids in 1917 facilitated movement of freight south and prompted re-opening of the fishery. This time the lake sturgeon stock was heavily exploited as over 800,000 lbs were harvested in just nine seasons, exceeding the totalcommercial catch from the area for the next 65 years! Many of the operators at the time were of Icelandic and Norwegian decent. By 1927, harvests had decreased sharply, and the sturgeon fishery throughout Manitoba was closed for a second time in 1934. The Nelson River sturgeon fishery was opened on two occasions during the next 26 years (1937-1946 and 1953-1960), but never achieved the harvests of the 1920s. However, pressure from fishermen coerced the responsible authorities into reopening the fishery in 1970 with a much reduced quota. This fishery operated for the next 22 years until increased domestic harvests prompted a buy out of the fishermen and closure of the commercial fishery in 1992. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)