Waterfowl Hunting Modernization in Manitoba

Background

Over the past several decades, access to waterfowl hunting opportunities in Manitoba has become increasingly difficult.

Growing competition between licensed outfitters, illegal outfitters, foreign (mostly American) freelance hunters and resident waterfowl hunters had a dramatic effect on the landscape. 

Licensed outfitters and resident hunters have for many years raised concerns to the province about the growth of unlicensed outfitting by foreign residents and challenges gaining access to hunting areas ‘locked up’ for foreign hunters, often through exclusive lease arrangements.

These concerns led to discussions involving government and the organizations representing licensed outfitters, freelance hunters, tourism officials and resident hunters that began in the late 1990’s.  In 2014, an initial step was taken by the province in the form of a moratorium on new licensed outfitters. Along with that moratorium, the province began to collect more detailed information on the numbers of clients reported by licensed outfitters through Outfitter Declaration Forms. They also conducted surveys on the factors affecting the waterfowl hunting experience of Manitoba residents.

As the problems continued to grow and more data became available, more comprehensive reforms were proposed to government by stakeholders.

In 2021 the province responded by releasing a concept proposal for discussion purposes. The Minister of Natural Resources then undertook a comprehensive consultation with the following organizations: Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Travel Manitoba, Ducks Unlimited Inc. (USA), Delta Waterfowl, Keystone Agriculture Producers, Association of Manitoba Municipalities, Manitoba Wildlife Federation, Manitoba Habitat Conservancy, Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Manitoba Hotel Association.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Manitoba Trappers Association did not meet but offered their public support of the proposed changes. After consultation with stakeholders, this initial round of consultations resulted in several changes to the initial proposals in response to specific concerns raised by stakeholders.

The province then published the detailed draft regulations along with an explanatory note for a 45-day public consultation process.  Following that final round of consultations, the provincial Waterfowl Modernization Strategy was passed into force in November of 2022, in time for the 2023 hunting season.

Manitoba Waterfowl Modernization Strategy

The changes are described in detail here, the main components being:

  • A cap on the number of licensed outfitters and the number of their foreign clients, Allocations were based on the pre-Covid averages submitted by licensed outfitters through the mandatory reporting system of Outfitter Declaration Forms.
  • A new 7 consecutive day license for foreign waterfowl hunters, which can be obtained either from
    • a licensed outfitter, or
    • through a lottery application process, also limited to the number of foreign freelance hunters pre-Covid.
  • A grandfathering provision that allows foreign residents who held an interest in Manitoba property as of September 1st, 2022, to hunt waterfowl in Manitoba for a 21-day period with up to 3 designated guests.

This strategy borrows elements from approaches previously adopted in Manitoba for outfitting foreign big game hunters, and in other jurisdictions to balance access between non-resident and resident waterfowl hunters.

The main purpose of the strategy is to strengthen the resident outfitting industry by eliminating illegal outfitting by foreign hunters and reduce competition for resident hunters attempting to access hunting areas.

Next Steps

This past 2023 waterfowl hunting season was the first under the new regime, and the province has established a Waterfowl Advisory Committee. Included are representatives from our outfitting industry, as well as freelance and resident hunters.

They were to provide advice to the department on the implementation of the modernization strategy. While the modernization package has been well received, issues have been identified by stakeholders. As we enter this second phase the MLOA will continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders and government to ensure that waterfowl outfitting is a sustainable business model for the future.

The main implementation issues being discussed at the Waterfowl Advisory Committee relate to the balancing of foreign and resident hunting pressure, and freelance and hosted foreign hunters, including:

  • The interplay between the freelance lottery licenses and outfitting clients
  • Enforcement strategies to eliminate illegal outfitting,
  • Reduction of conflict between foreign and resident hunters
  • The practice of leasing exclusive hunting rights
  • Guide licensing
  • Information to be collected through further surveys

An advisory committee of 8 Outfitters (MLOA members, as well as non-members) has been created to provide recommendations specific to the allocation policies and procedures for foreign waterfowl hunting licenses, including:

  • Utilization of licenses (percentage / review term)
  • Will all traditional GHA’s be indefinitely grandfathered? 
  • Process of transferring of licenses and grandfathered GHA’s during a business sale.
  • Will a FR be able to purchase more than one outfitted license if they chose to hunt with more than one outfitter during a season?
  • How to accommodate outfitters who have booked more guests for 2023 than the 2016-2019 ODF averages going into the allocation format.
  • Review process made available for outfitters who have signed the Allocation Agreement.
  • Will each operator have a background check done before being brought into the allocation, i.e., schedule A or B offenses?
  • How will the department handle non active licensed waterfowl outfitters?
  • Enforcement process of illegally guided or illegally outfitted freelance waterfowl hunters.  

Request

If you are a Licensed Waterfowl Outfitter and are interested in providing input on our industry concerns, please contact us at [email protected]

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Box 70084, RPO Kenaston
Winnipeg, MB
Canada R3P 0X6
PH 204.772.1912
TF 800.305.0013
E [email protected]

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