EDMONTON - October is golden caviar season in Alberta, right before the whitefish spawn in Lesser Slave Lake’s shallows.

But Finnish cruise-goers and gourmands will have to find other roe to hoe. After years of conflict and decline, the province finally cut bait in August with its 174 remaining licensed commercial fishermen, effectively killing the caviar hub on the west side of the giant lake 250 kilometres north of Edmonton.

The demise of Alberta’s commercial fishing industry has been rumoured for decades. There simply weren’t enough fish for everyone, the province decided, as aboriginals exercised their treaty rights, the number of anglers grew and the pace of northern development sped up.

“There’s too many people at the table and not enough pizzas,” said Mike Sullivan, a fisheries biologist with Sustainable Resource Development. “The commercial fishermen were the last, by policy, so they had to be cut out.”

Alberta’s fish production made up three or four per cent of the $65-million annual haul for Freshwater Fish, the Manitoba-based Crown corporation that sells most fish products caught on Prairie lakes. Alberta’s whitefish wound up on restaurant plates in Chicago and New York; the caviar often went to cruise ships on the Baltic Sea.

Read the full story at the Edmonton Journal>>

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