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'This is their livelihood': Fishery in Grand Rapids burns down, impacting local fishing community

A fire happening at the Grand Rapids Fihserman Co-op on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (Source: Bobby Ballantyne) A fire happening at the Grand Rapids Fihserman Co-op on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (Source: Bobby Ballantyne)

A fishery located in central Manitoba that operates right next to Lake Winnipeg has burned down, leaving the fishing community wondering what will happen next.

Bobby Ballantyne, a member of the co-op and part of the board of directors, said a fire broke out in the early morning hours on Sunday. He said it's believed it was an electrical fire, but an investigation is ongoing.

"It's a devastating loss to our community. Not only our community but our fishermen," said Ballantyne.

He said the fishery employed 90 active fishermen and 24 retired commercial fishermen and the plant had six workers that helped with weighing, sorting and packing the fish.

"On average, we harvest about 265,000 kilograms of fish annually. That's a revenue of $110,000 the co-op lost. And a total of approximately $1.5 million is paid out to active fishermen annually," Ballantyne said.

"This is their livelihood. This is how they feed their family. This is a state of emergency. I'm just devastated myself."

Ballantyne said an agreement has been made with a neighbouring fish shed so fishermen could send their fish there, but he noted it is two hours away and fishermen would have to drive the fish there themselves, leaving some waiting to see what happens next for the Grand Rapids co-op.

In the short term, Ballantyne said they are hoping to set up some kind of mobile packing and weighing station to help those fishermen in the area. In the long term, he is hoping construction on a new building can start as soon as possible once the investigation has wrapped up.

Ballantyne added the fishery is hoping some kind of financial help will be provided to set up the mobile station, whether it be from the province or another source.

"Our fishermen are hardworking people that provide for their families…so any kind of help would be gratefully appreciated."

In a statement from the province, a spokesperson said it is aware of the situation and has spoken with fishers in the area to look at other delivery options. Top Stories

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