The Manitoba government is cracking down on sushi restaurants for not paying their employees proper wages.

After investigating 400 businesses this year, the province's Employment Standards Branch has sent letters of caution to 52 sushi restaurants for failing to pay employees overtime and holiday wages.

Only one sushi restaurant was fined: Wasabi Sabi, located on Taylor Avenue in Winnipeg, was fined $500 for failing to pay wages within a 10-day period.

The popularity of sushi in recent years has led to a growing number of restaurants opening in Winnipeg — and, some say, increasingly fierce competition.

"It's definitely a battle, for sure, out here. Like, we all kind of fight for customers," Jordan Stern, who has worked at Sushi Ya on Corydon Avenue for the past three years, told CBC News on Thursday.

"People go to one restaurant and it gets too slow, and they all run to a another restaurant down the block."

Stern said he has always been paid properly, but he has heard about workers getting underpaid at other restaurants.

"Just that they've been, like, freshly immigrated here and they don't paid enough or something like that for what they do, or they get paid for less hours than they actually work — stuff like that," he said.

The Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association says the wage issue may simply be an issue of education, as many new restaurant owners may not be familiar with provincial pay standards.

"There could be a language issue, there could be just a lack of an understanding," said Scott Jocelyn, the association's executive director.

"But I mean, if you are operating here, you should be following the rules that are set out here. And if you don't have that knowledge, then you should go hard to get the knowledge."

Very few sushi restaurants are registered with the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association, said Jocelyn.

He added that his group tries to help restaurant owners understand the legislation they have to follow.