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SEA-NL calls for public inquiry into fishing vessel safety, search and rescue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, May 20th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is calling for a joint, federal/provincial commission of inquiry into fishing vessel safety, and search and rescue response in this province to investigate why incidents and deaths at sea are on the rise.


“There is no greater indictment of serious, systemic problems with fishing vessel safety and search and rescue than the rise in mariner deaths,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director. 


“Fishing is already one of the most dangerous occupations in the world without lax government oversight increasing those risks.”

 

SEA-NL recommends that an inquiry into fishing vessel safety and search and rescue in the province investigate from four fronts — fisheries management, Transport Canada regulations, safety at sea, and search and rescue.


“The Transportation Safety board has been reporting on commercial fishing deficiencies for the last three decades and it’s been on their watchlist for 12 years, and every year the same safety deficiencies aboard fishing vessels continue to put the lives of thousands of harvesters at risk,” says Merv Wiseman, a member of SEA-NL’s executive board, and advocate for vessel safety and search and rescue.


The Transportation Safety Board released an investigative report this week into the 2020 sinking of the fishing vessel Sarah Anne in Placentia Bay, which claimed the lives of four south coast fishermen.


The report found that the vessel hadn’t been inspected since its construction in 1980, 40 years before. The investigation also found that the boat had been operating outside its safe operating limits, which the skipper and crew had no way of knowing.


“The fact that more than 4,000 small boats from the under 35’ fleet are registered with Fisheries and Oceans than with Transport Canada screams that fishery management regulations have taken precedence over fishing safety,” said Wiseman. “The Government of Canada has lost its way in that regard.”


SEA-NL has warned that trip limits and fishing schedules in the ongoing snow crab fishery can pressure owner-operators to fish in dangerous conditions, and are an accident waiting to happen.


“Owner-operators often find themselves fishing in dangerous conditions,” said Wiseman. “They should never be pressured into those dangerous conditions.”


SEA-NL will make a formal written request to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Andrew Furey for a commission of inquiry with the power to subpoena witnesses, take evidence under oath, and request documents.


Between 2018 and 2020 there were 45 harvester fatalities on fishing vessels of all sizes and all types of occurrences — the highest fatality count in a three-year period in more than 20 years.


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SEA-NL supports province issuing new snow crab processing licenses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) supports the issuance of new snow crab processing licenses as the quickest way to increase industry capacity, and reduce pressure on the inshore fleet to fish in potentially unsafe conditions.

 

“We see more processing licenses as the quickest way to take pressure off the inshore fleet,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s executive director. “More competition in the processing sector should mean more opportunity for inshore boats to land crab quotas faster, with less expense, and safer for all hands.”

 

The province’s Fish Processing Licensing Board is reportedly considering four applications for snow crab processing licenses around the province, including one for St. Mary’s.


The licensing board has made a recommendation regarding the St. Mary’s application, but provincial Fisheries Minister Derek Bragg is said to be meeting with the board today before making a final decision.


Workers at some crab processing operations around the province including St. Lawrence, Bonavista, and Brigus have protested against the issuance of more licenses, arguing the move will mean less work at existing plants.


At the same time, the limited amount of processing capacity in the province has resulted in processors imposing trip limits and fishing schedules on the inshore fleet, which lost millions of dollars when they weren’t able to catch their quotas before Monday when the price dropped to $6.15/lb from $7.60/lb.


But the even bigger concern is the pressure that trip limits and fishing schedules put on enterprise owners to fish in questionable weather or to catch their quotas before soft shell or moulting crab shut down a fishery and the quotas are lost.


“More crab processing capacity will take pressure off the inshore fleet, and that’s the bottom line for SEA-NL,” said Cleary. 


He added that over the longer term the province must correct the incredible power imbalance between owner-operators and processors by allowing in outside buyers, considering an auction system for fish pricing, and lobbying Ottawa to include fish pricing with amendments to the federal Competition Act.


“It’s critical the power imbalance be corrected so the inshore fleet is on the same footing as the processing sector,” Cleary said. “Anything less is unacceptable.”

 

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Impact of foreign overfishing as bad as seals; must also be addressed: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, May 13th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) congratulates the Government of Canada for finally recognizing that seals eat fish, but reminds Ottawa that foreign overfishing on/off the Grand Banks is as destructive as ever to commercial stocks.

 

“Seals aren’t the only killer of fish stocks,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director. “It’s still the wild west outside the 200-mile limit in terms of overfishing by foreign factory-freezer draggers.”

 

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray said Thursday more research is needed on the impact of seals on dwindling East Coast fish stocks in response to a report that said DFO’s science doesn't go far enough.

 

DFO, however, must consider all factors — including foreign overfishing — on the health of battered East Coast fish stocks. 

 

Unlike most countries, Canada’s continental shelf off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador extends beyond 200 miles, leaving migratory stocks such as northern cod exposed to foreign overfishing once they swim to the high seas.

 

High seas fishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, and rich nearby fishing grounds like the Flemish Cap, are regulated by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which is seen as toothless, unable to enforce the quotas it sets.

 

Under NAFO rules, Canada cannot charge a foreign dragger with illegal fishing. Rather, it is left to the vessel’s home country to investigate a complaint or “notice of infringement” issued by Canadian enforcement officers, and follow up with possible penalties/court action, which amount to a slap on the wrist. 

 

This past March, the Portuguese offshore factory-freezer trawler Nova Virgem Da Barca was issued the fifth “notice of infringement” in six years for fishing violations that include misreporting catches, use of undersized mesh, and observer intimidation.

 

“It’s obvious that Canadian enforcement actions are not cutting it as a deterrent to foreign overfishing,” Cleary said. 

 

Last October the captain of a Faroe Islands longliner accused "pirate trawlers" of destroying the Grand Banks under the nose of Fisheries and Oceans by directing for moratorium species such as cod and other illegal fishing activities.

 

“The impact of foreign overfishing on our domestic fisheries may be as big or bigger than that of seals, and Ottawa must act on both fronts,” said Cleary. 

 

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Trip limits must be addressed in crab fishery or Furey government may have blood on its hands: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is demanding Premier Andrew Furey address trip limits in the snow crab fishery or his government may have blood on its hands before the end of the fishing season.

“The inshore fleet has one of the most dangerous jobs without trip limits adding to the risk, and then owner-operators being told when to fish, and when not to fish,” says Ryan Cleary, Executive Director of SEA-NL.

“Trip limits put pressure on enterprise owners — who are also dealing with the threat of a price drop, and fishery closures in the case of molting or soft-shell crab — to fish in weather they would not ordinarily fish in,” he said. “If government stands idly by and lives are lost this crab fishing season the province will have to answer for them directly.”

Snow crab buyers brought in trip limits last week on the inshore fleet to slow down the amount landed. Many boats were tied to the wharf this past weekend when the weather was good, only to be told today they can head to sea on Wednesday.

Larger inshore boats have weekly trip limits of 20,000/lbs and up, while some smaller boats in the fleet are capped at 3,000/lb. With trip limits, a crab quota that could be landed in a week could take a month or longer to bring in.

Enterprise owners are forced to make more trips to sea in weather that’s worsening with climate change, and driving up fishing costs by thousands of dollars for fuel alone.

“Trip limits and being told when to fish are an accident waiting to happen,” says Merv Wiseman, an outspoken advocate for fishing vessel safety who also sits on SEA-NL’s executive board. “The economic pressure on fish harvesters to meet trip limits imposed by processors means they will go to sea in unsafe conditions.”

While trip limits are forced on the inshore fleet, snow crab is reportedly being trucked into the province for processing at local plants from the Maritimes and Quebec, as well as from the French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon.

“It is unacceptable that local buyers are allowed to bring in crab for processing while the inshore fleet is held hostage, and it is illegal for them to truck out their crab,” said Cleary.

The FFAW-Unifor has been quiet on the issue of trip limits, but then the union is in a conflict of interest in representing workers at unionized crab plants like those owned by Ocean Choice International (which brought in trip limits) while also representing the inshore fleet.

SEA-NL takes the stand that the provincial government should immediately allow out-of-province buyers to operate here on a level playing field with local processors/buyers.

SEA-NL also called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week to include fish price negotiations under the federal Competition Act, which is under active review.

To date, 29% of this year’s 50,470-tonne snow crab quota for Newfoundland and Labrador has been landed.

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SEA-NL calls on Trudeau government to include fish pricing in Competition Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to include fish pricing in the federal Competition Act with planned amendments to the legislation.


“The only industry in Canada excluded from the federal Competition Act is the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, and the inshore fleet pays the price in terms of less money for their fish,” says Ryan Cleary, Executive Director of SEA-NL.


In the federal budget released earlier this month, the Trudeau government revealed plans to make amendments to toughen Canadian competition laws. As part of those changes, government pledged to tackle anti-competitive conspiracies between competitors that hurt workers.


Fish price negotiations in this province — the structure of which was described last year by the premier’s economy recovery team as “anti-competitive by nature” — are excluded from the federal Competition Act (Section 4). 


“In Newfoundland and Labrador processors can import snow crab from the Maritimes and Quebec for processing at local plants, while those same processors can order the inshore fleet — which can’t access outside buyers — tied to the wharf on trip limits,” Cleary said. 


“How is that fair in terms of competition?” asked Cleary, who will put the formal request in writng to the Prime Minister. “Fish prices paid to our owner-operators are too often much less than the prices paid to fleets across the Gulf, and that fundamental unfairness can only end when the playing field is levelled in terms of fair competition.”


Owner-operators in this province often complain they cannot move freely between buyers/processors, and processing companies have been accused of working together as a cartel to keep fish fish prices down.


Cleary said that the panel system of fish pricing — which is exclusive to Newfoundland and Labrador, and enshrined in provincial government legislation — often does not result in the inshore fleet getting a fair market share from the sale of fish.


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Contact Ryan Cleary: 709 682 4862

Website: sea-nl.ca

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to include fish pricing in the federal Competition Act with planned amendments to the legislation.


“The only industry in Canada excluded from the federal Competition Act is the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, and the inshore fleet pays the price in terms of less money for their fish,” says Ryan Cleary, Executive Director of SEA-NL.


In the federal budget released earlier this month, the Trudeau government revealed plans to make amendments to toughen Canadian competition laws. As part of those changes, government pledged to tackle anti-competitive conspiracies between competitors that hurt workers.


Fish price negotiations in this province — the structure of which was described last year by the premier’s economy recovery team as “anti-competitive by nature” — are excluded from the federal Competition Act (Section 4). 


“In Newfoundland and Labrador processors can import snow crab from the Maritimes and Quebec for processing at local plants, while those same processors can order the inshore fleet — which can’t access outside buyers — tied to the wharf on trip limits,” Cleary said. 


“How is that fair in terms of competition?” asked Cleary, who will put the formal request in writng to the Prime Minister. “Fish prices paid to our owner-operators are too often much less than the prices paid to fleets across the Gulf, and that fundamental unfairness can only end when the playing field is levelled in terms of fair competition.”


Owner-operators in this province often complain they cannot move freely between buyers/processors, and processing companies have been accused of working together as a cartel to keep fish fish prices down.


Cleary said that the panel system of fish pricing — which is exclusive to Newfoundland and Labrador, and enshrined in provincial government legislation — often does not result in the inshore fleet getting a fair market share from the sale of fish.


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Contact Ryan Cleary: 709 682 4862

Website: sea-nl.ca

Mackerel fishery closed, but inshore fleet still want their licenses: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, April 22, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is calling on Fisheries and Oceans to continue issuing mackerel licenses to existing license holders in the inshore fleet even though the fishery is closed.

 

“Owner-operators want to know their mackerel licenses are safe, and will be there for them when the fishery reopens,” says Ryan Cleary, Executive Director of SEA-NL. “Many of them do not trust DFO, there’s no other way to put it.”

 

“A mackerel license represents a major investment of many thousands of dollars — not just for the license itself — but in terms of the fishing enterprise and gear, and owner-operators want to keep their licenses even if it is just for the privilege of not fishing them.”

 

Ottawa closed the East Coast mackerel fishery at the end of March, and shut down directed fishing for spring herring in the southern Gulf.

 

Shortly after, DFO stopped posting mackerel licenses for renewal on its National Online Licensing System (NOLS), which generated immediate reaction from mackerel fishermen around the province.

 

Boyd Lavers of Port Saunders on the Great Northern Peninsula has fished millions of pounds of mackerel over the 18 years he’s been at it, and insists on continuing to renew his license, and pay the annual fee even though the fishery is closed.

 

“We want the mackerel licenses put back on NOLS so we can pay our fees, and we’ll know then that we’ll have our licenses for when the fishery reopens,” said Lavers. “We may never be able to fish mackerel again, but for a fee I'll take my chances."

 

A DFO official has told SEA-NL that members of the inshore fleet are not required to renew their mackerel licenses to maintain eligibility as long as the fishery remains closed for conservation reasons, “as provided by the current commercial fisheries licensing policy for eastern Canada.”

 

“Only federal fishery policy can change at the whim of the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of the day,” said Cleary.

 

While the Canadian mackerel fishery is closed, the United States continues fishing the same migratory stock with a 4,963-tonne mackerel quota this year.

 

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Not enough Russian head of NAFO has stepped down; country must be expelled/fish quotas transferred to Ukraine: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) says it’s not enough that the Russian president and chair of the international organization that manages fish stock inside and outside Canada’s 200-mile limit has stepped down.

 

The Russian Federation itself must be expelled from the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, with the country’s thousands of tonnes of quotas transferred to the Ukraine — another member of the 13-country organization.


“Russia has violated every protocol on the face of the earth with its war on Ukraine, and its membership in NAFO should be cancelled outright, and its fish quotas transferred,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director.


“Russian seafood is banned around the world, so it stands to reason that its offshore dragger fleet should not be permitted to fish as a NAFO-member country.”


Russian quotas in NAFO waters include thousands of tonnes of redfish, skate, turbot, cod, flounder, hake and squid.


On Feb. 28th, SEA-NL first questioned publicly whether Russia should be kicked out of NAFO, and its offshore dragger fleet banned from fishing outside Canadian waters as another message to President Vladimir Putin that his invasion of the Ukraine is unacceptable.


The CBC reported today (April 5th) that Temur Tairov of the Russian Federation — who was elected President of NAFO and Chair of the Commission in September 2021 — had resigned on March 2th.


While the resignation was reportedly for health reasons, there’s speculation Tairov would have been asked to step aside. American Deirdre Warner-Kramer has taken over as acting chair of NAFO.


In March, Canada and six other countries left the Arctic Council over Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia was also suspended last month from the International Council from the Exploration of the Seas.

 

A spokesperson for federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray said Russia would be better in than out of NAFO, given that country would no longer be bound by any quota or enforcement measure.


SEA-NL and other NAFO critics take the stand that NAFO is a toothless organization, powerless to enforce the quotas it sets. That said, the frequency of non-member NAFO countries pirating fish stocks on the high seas has severely tapered off in recent years. 


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SEA-NL calls for Derek Butler’s resignation from Association of Seafood Producers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, representing owner-operators in the inshore fleet, is calling for the resignation of the executive director of the association representing buyers/processors after publicly criticizing the province’s snow crab resource.

 

“Derek Butler said on NTV News Tuesday that our snow crab is second-rate compared to product from the Maritimes, worth 30% less,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director. “For the spokesman for seafood companies in this province to say that publicly shows poor judgement, and reflects poorly on what is the best snow crab in the world. He must no longer speak for industry.”

 

Butler told NTV that snow crab caught in the Maritimes is a better product than snow crab from this province, worth up to $3/lb more because it’s a “different product” — “no barnacles, redder crab, bigger crab, better yields, and closer to markets.”

 

In fact, snow crab from other East Coast provinces is often shipped into Newfoundland and Labrador for processing with locally caught crab.

 

Butler also said that in “given years” the province’s inshore fleet takes 70% or more of the market value. SEA-NL challenged Butler to release all financial information on snow crab sales.

 

“Derek Butler can cherry pick numbers till the cows come home, but he can’t explain why the processors he represents, who have exclusive buying rights to Newfoundland and Labrador seafood, are prepared to pay our inshore fleet up to $4.40/lb less than on the wharf in Nova Scotia,” said Jason Sullivan, President of SEA-NL.

 

The province’s price-setting panel was scheduled to meet Tuesday to hear a motion by the Association of Seafood Producers to remove Earle McCurdy, with another hearing scheduled for today (March 30) on the snow crab price.

 

As collective bargaining agent, the FFAW-Unifor has laid $9.05/lb on the table to start the 2022 season, compared to the ASP’s $7.60/lb, a rollover of last years’ price.

 

At the same time, the price paid last week on a wharf in Nova Scotia for snow crab there was $12/lb.

 

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SEA-NL launches petition urging Ottawa to change status of non-core licenses 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, March 4th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) has launched a petition urging the House of Commons to change the status of non-core groundfish licenses so they can be sold or handed down.

 

“Non-core license holders are treated like second-class fishermen,” says Jason Sullivan, President of SEA-NL, the distinct voice of the province’s licensed owner-operators. “That must end based on safety-at-sea, and fairness.”

 

DFO’s licensing policy for Newfoundland and Labrador states that non-core groundfish licenses are not eligible for reissuance, meaning they die with the inshore owner-operators who hold them.

 

DFO brought in the non-core policy in the 1990s after the collapse of the commercial cod fisheries to reduce the number of fishermen.

 

The policy has been effective: the 3,311 licensed fishermen in the province at the end of 2020 (including 492 non-core) represented an 83% decline from 1992 when there were more than 20,000 licensed harvesters in the province.

 

However, the non-core policy unfairly targeted many fishermen who — despite having a historical attachment to the fishery — held other jobs, and did not/could not depend on the fishery as their primary or sole source of income.

 

Many worked on fishing boats whereby money from a fish sale was put in a single fisherman’s name, and so they couldn’t prove attachment to the fishery, with little support, financial or otherwise, to appeal their non-core designation.

Inshore harvesters don't have pension plans, and often use money from the sale of their licenses to fund their retirement. That can't happen with non-core licence holders, many of whom have deteriorating health, but continue to work despite the risks. 

 

Those risks are amplified by the fact their non-core status restricts their boat length to 28 feet at a time when the East Coast climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable in fisheries that extend later into the fall.

The federal court recently ordered the federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans to reconsider a decision not to allow certain lobster licenses in the Maritimes to be sold or handed down.

SEA-NL wrote the minister in January to ask that she reconsider similar non-core groundfish licenses in this province at the same time.

The petition can be found on the Parliament of Canada website, and is based on a resolution passed in early February at SEA-NL’s founding convention. The petition is open to all Canadians to sign, and will be presented by Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame Conservative MP Clifford Small.

 

Find the petition here: https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-3862

 

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Overwhelming support for extending length of inshore fishing boats: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

The province’s inshore owner-operator fish harvesters overwhelmingly support extending the maximum length of fishing boats in their fleet for safety reasons, and to fall in line with the rest of Atlantic Canada.

 

“The message from the inshore fleet is clear that the days of chopping off boats are over,” says Jason Sullivan, President of Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the distinct voice of the province’s licensed, owner-operators. “Fisheries and Oceans has gotten the message loud and clear that the policy must change.”

 

DFO recently held a string of seven virtual outreach meetings around the province to hear directly from inshore harvesters about issues impacting their fleets, with the question of fishing-vessel length front-and-centre on the agenda.

 

The vast majority of the owner-operators spoke in favour of extending the maximum length of inshore boats to 49’11 from 39’11 to fall in line with inshore fleets in the rest of Atlantic Canada. Vessel lengths range from less than 50’ in DFO’s Maritime and Quebec regions to less than 45’ in the Gulf region.

 

Owner-operators in this province who purchase used, over 40’ fishing vessels from elsewhere in Atlantic Canada are forced to cut them in length at huge expense, often giving the vessels an “ugly” snub-nose appearance, and making them square to the water. The practice doesn’t impact a vessel’s carrying capacity, and often raises stability questions.

 

Owner-operators said their No. 1 reason for wanting the change is safety at sea in light of changing climatic conditions.

 

“Transport Canada and DFO preach safety, so now please let us practice safety,” said Sullivan, echoing sentiments expressed at the meetings.

 

Restricting inshore boats to less than 40’ also doesn’t  make sense in that while DFO regulates vessel length, the department doesn't regulate vessel width — and vessels that were built 16-feet wide in the early 1990s are built up to 28-feet wide today. Newer under 40' vessels today have greater capacity than older 65 footers.

 

DFO officials said surveys will be e-mailed in the coming days to the province’s roughly 2,800 owner-operators (including 600 in the over 40’ fleet) for their final word on vessel length, but an official acknowledged the message from owner-operators was clear that change is necessary.

 

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SEA-NL up and running as ‘distinct voice’ of skippers, licensed inshore owner-operators

SEA-NL up and running as ‘distinct voice’ of skippers, licensed inshore owner-operators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, Feb. 22nd, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) elected its first executive during a founding convention earlier this month, and the Board’s first order of business was to hire an Executive Director.

“Licensed inshore harvesters finally have an organization to serve as their distinct voice, and their voice alone,” says Jason Sullivan, a Bay Bulls fisherman who was elected SEA-NL President during the virtual convention.

Other members of the SEA-NL executive include: Bruce Layman of Carbonear, Secretary-Treasurer; Preston Grandy of Garnish, Captain Under 40’ Fleet; and Kenneth Courtney of Francois, Captain Over 40’ Fleet.

As well, Merv Wiseman, an outspoken advocate for fishing vessel safety/search and rescue, will serve on the board in an ex-officio capacity.

SEA-NL’s new Board met recently, and its first order of business was to hire Ryan Cleary to serve as Executive Director. Cleary, who along with Wiseman spent months organizing SEA-NL, also led the FISH-NL union movement, served as a Member of Parliament, and is a career journalist.

During SEA-NL’s convention eight resolutions were passed by the membership to help guide the organization in terms of policy.

Resolutions included: changing DFO policy so that non-core groundfish licenses can be sold/transferred; increased search and rescue for Labrador; allowing for more price reconsiderations under the province’s panel system of fish pricing; a ban on bottom-trawling for cod in 3Ps; the adoption of the adjacency principle; a standard fishing vessel-length policy for Atlantic Canada; a no-discard policy for this province’s herring fishery; and a change to allow for hook and line in marine protected areas.

Find the resolutions here: https://www.sea-nl.ca/convention2021

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Contact: Ryan Cleary
sea-nl@outlook.com

SEA-NL calls for independent investigation of DFO operations in province

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, Jan. 25th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to order an independent investigation of the operations of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the province amid alarming allegations of political interference raised by the CBC.

 

“DFO’s last shred of credibility in this province is on the line,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s interim Executive Director.

 

“The allegations by the union representing DFO scientists not only call into question the department’s faith in itself, but what little faith inshore harvesters and all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have left in DFO to manage the wild commercial fisheries.”

 

The allegations by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union representing DFO scientists in the province, are reportedly outlined in a November letter to the federal deputy minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

 

Cleary notes that CBC NL has not released the letter, but has reported extensively on allegations said to be outlined in the document. The allegations include that scientific advice was altered, and that DFO “exhibited a pattern where interference with scientific work is commonplace.”

 

The allegations accuse lobbyists, industry — including the FFAW-Unifor, and Atlantic Groundfish Council (representing the offshore dragger sector), senior bureaucrats, and at least one politician (Minister Andrew Parsons) of undermining the work of DFO scientists in the province.

 

In reference to Parsons, it’s alleged that as provincial Energy Minister he “lobbied DFO to change or withhold the publication of its science advice,” which he had been leaked a copy of. The science advice reportedly involved measures to protect corals and sponges during oil and gas exploration and development.

 

The allegations refer to a seal task team, appointed by the federal government in 2019, which the scientists’ union alleges is not an example of the scientific community collaborating, "but rather industry influencing departmental science."

 

The allegations also specifically refer to the altering of science advice regarding the cod stock off southern Newfoundland in fishing zone 3Ps as a possible way to manipulate the dwindling quota.

 

SEA-NL raised the allegations by the scientists’ union in mid-January during a virtual meeting of a DFO advisory group assigned to recommend this year’s cod quota for the 3Ps stock — calling at the time for an investigation.

 

In response, the Atlantic Groundfish Council wrote DFO to ask that the department reconsider inviting a SEA-NL representative to sit as an observer at future meetings.

 

“These are very serious allegations directed at the core of fishery management in the province, and to move forward we need the Prime Minister to order a thorough, third-party investigation supported by Premier Andrew Furey whose government is also implicated,” Cleary says.

 

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Contact Ryan Cleary: 709 682 4862

SEA-NL says bottom-trawling must be banned from all three adjacent cod stocks (not just two)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Jan. 13th 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) has recommended that Fisheries and Oceans expand its ban on bottom-trawling to include all three cod stocks off the province’s shores.

 

“Fisheries and Oceans can not scientifically justify banning bottom-trawling for cod in two adjacent stocks when all three are in the critical zone,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s interim Executive Director.

 

DFO allows for bottom-trawling of the cod stock off southern Newfoundland in fishing zone 3Ps.

 

However, bottom-trawling is banned in the northern cod fishery off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador (fishing zones 2J,3KL), and for cod in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (fishing zones 4R/3Pn). All three cod stocks have been designated by DFO science as in the critical zone, meaning fishing must be kept to a minimum.

 

Cleary made the recommendation for a complete ban on bottom-trawling for all three adjacent cod stocks during a meeting Wednesday of a DFO advisory group assigned to recommend this year’s cod quota for the 3Ps stock.

 

“The 3Ps cod stock is no less susceptible to the impacts of bottom-trawling than northern cod or Gulf cod,” said Cleary, who took part in the virtual meeting as an observer, and was only permitted to make a statement at the end.

 

For 2022, the advisory group unanimously recommended rolling over the 2021 cod quota of 1,345 tonnes. A final decision will be made by federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray later this winter/spring.

 

The FFAW-Unifor recommended the entire Canadian cod allocation be made available to the inshore fleet only, which was immediately opposed by the offshore dragger sector. Draggers use huge bottom-trawls to rake in their quota.

 

Cleary also called out DFO for not holding meetings with inshore harvesters on a 3Ps cod rebuilding plan, given that the FFAW, which the department looks to for the harvester perspective, also represents workers on the offshore draggers, and at plants where the cod is processed.

 

Concerns were raised late last year by the Professional Institute of the Public Service, representing scientists who work for the federal government, that DFO decisions specific to the 3Ps cod stock had undermined scientific “independence, excellence and integrity.

 

The union was critical of lobbying efforts by the FFAW and Atlantic Groundfish Council, representing the offshore sector, towards then federal Fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan.

 

SEA-NL called for an independent investigation to restore DFO’s credibility, and criticized DFO’s decision not to include the impact of seals on the rebuilding plan for the 3Ps stock as “scientifically negligent, or at the very least scientifically disingenuous.”

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SEA-NL says priority 1 for 2022 inshore fishery is for province to amend fish price-setting system

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, Jan. 4th, 2022 

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) says an immediate priority for the 2022 inshore fishery is for the province to amend its fish price-setting system to address a weakness that cost harvesters untold millions of dollars in last year’s snow crab fishery alone.

 

“Inshore harvesters were not paid a fair-market return from their crab sales in 2021 because a provincial government regulation stood in the way,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s interim Executive Director. 


“The regulation must be amended before the start of the 2022 season, or what little faith that exists in the price-setting system will be gone altogether.”


Under the province’s regulated system of fish pricing, when the FFAW-Unifor, as collective bargaining agent for inshore harvesters, and Association of Seafood Producers, representing processors, fail to reach an agreement on the price paid to harvesters for a particular species, the dispute is referred to the government-appointed Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel.


The panel then steps in and chooses one price or the other, with government regulation dictating that each party is limited to one request for price reconsideration per species. 


In the case of snow crab, the Panel set the 2021 price at $5.73/lb on March 31st. Within weeks the FFAW used its one and only price reconsideration to see the panel lock in the final price to harvesters for the year at $7.60/lb on April 25th.


Only snow crab prices in world markets continued to rise after that almost on a weekly basis, and harvesters had no way under the government-regulated system to tap into the rising price.


SEA-NL wrote the provincial government on Nov. 5th to request that the regulation under the Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel that restricts each party to one price reconsideration per species be lifted, and the change be made prior to the start of the 2022 season.


In a Dec. 14th response, Environment and Climate Change Minister Bernard Davis, whose department is also responsible for labour, said the matter was under review, which he expected to be concluded in the “very near future.”

 

The Standing Fish Price Setting Panel also doesn’t have the power to force processors to reveal industry or market information on fish prices so its decisions are often blind.

 

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SEA-NL condemns DFO’s backroom plans for rebuilding south coast cod stock

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, Dec. 20th, 2021

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) accuses Fisheries and Oceans of orchestrating a “backroom” plan for rebuilding the cod stock off southern Newfoundland, and excluding the voice of inshore harvesters.

 

“Any rebuilding attempt that does not include the input of the inshore fleet is doomed,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s interim Executive Director. “When DFO leaves inshore harvesters out of the equation they get the math and science wrong, and the department is doing it again.”

 

DFO has assembled a working group to develop a rebuilding plan for 3Ps cod, which scientists said in November remains in the critical zone. The group includes department and union officials, fish processors, indigenous interests, and the offshore sector.

 

The working group held its first meeting in March, and again last week, following which the Atlantic Groudfish Council, representing the offshore, issued an internal memo to its members.

 

“Generally, all are aligned with potential harvest strategies that allow exploitation to be undertaken in the critical zone,” read the memo, a copy of which was forwarded to SEA-NL.

 

While harvest control rules have yet to be decided on, the memo said there’s pressure for agreement prior to the working group’s next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 12th.

 

“That sounds like the offshore draggers still expect to fish the 3Ps cod stock,” said Cleary. “That must not happen, and why this backroom rebuilding plan must be exposed.”

 

The fishing of pre-spawning and spawning congregations of cod on the St. Pierre Bank by offshore factory-freezer trawlers has been blamed for the failure of the 3Ps cod stock to rebound.

 

The inshore fleet in 3Ps had been led to believe that offshore draggers would be banned from fishing the cod stock until the quota reaches above 10,000 tonnes. Only that wasn’t the case, and offshore draggers continue to fish.

 

Most 3Ps inshore harvesters aren’t aware that a cod rebuilding plan is being developed, and DFO has confirmed the department doesn’t intend to hold targeted public meetings to discuss it.

 

While the FFAW represents inshore harvesters, the union also represents workers aboard offshore draggers, and the plants where the cod could be processed — creating an obvious and long-standing conflict of interest that will result in the inshore fleet not being properly represented.

 

SEA-NL is calling on DFO to hold targeted meetings with inshore harvesters in 3Ps, and to include representatives of the under and over 40’ fleets in the working group.

 

The 3Ps cod fishery was shut down in 1993, but reopened in 1997 with a quota of 10,000 tonnes. Since then the quota has jumped to as high as 30,000 tonnes in 1999 to this year’s low of 1,345 tonnes, half of the 2020 allocation.

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Oceans

DFO forces fishermen to shorten boats, Transport Canada fines them for it: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Tuesday, Dec. 7th, 2021

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) takes issue with the sudden move by Transport Canada to come down like a hammer on inshore fishermen who’ve had fishing vessels modified or cut in length without advance approval.

 

“Fishermen have been told for years by officials with Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and their own union that they didn’t need architectural drawings or advance approval to modify or cut a vessel to fish in the under 40’ fleet,” says Ryan Cleary, Interim Executive Director of SEA-NL.

 

“Now the same fishermen are being told they will be locked up, and/or slapped with million-dollar fines if they didn’t do what they were told they didn’t have to do,” added Cleary. “Sounds to me like grounds for a class-action lawsuit.”

 

Transport Canada officials say the owners of fishing vessels that have undergone major modifications to cut their overall length to under 40 feet — without having architectural plans (which can cost up to $30,000) approved in advance by the department — could face fines of up to $1 million and/or 18 months in jail.

 

The tie-ups, inspections, and possible further modifications could also cost fishermen untold tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

However, inshore harvesters in this province say it was never their understanding that their plans needed pre-approval. In recent years, dozens of them have purchased over 40-foot fishing vessels from the Maritimes, and had them modified (cut down) to be used in this province's under 40’ inshore fleet.

 

The move by Transport Canada Marine Safety and Security underscores the unfairness and chaos that comes from having two maximum base lengths for inshore fishing vessels in Eastern Canada — 39'll in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 49'11 in the Maritimes.

 

“DFO’s different policies amount to discrimination,” says Merv Wiseman, a long-time advocate for fishing vessel safety, and an organizer behind SEA-NL. “Why should Maritime fishermen be allowed bigger boats than ours. Is the safety of our fishermen worth any less?”

 

SEA-NL takes the stand that DFO should set a standard base length for all inshore fishing vessels in Atlantic Canada. Naval architects have said vessel-size restrictions are creating stability concerns in fishing vessels, and potential unsafe conditions at sea.

 

In June 2018 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans carried out a study of fishing vessel length in Atlantic Canada — recommending a full review of DFO's NL policy, and consultation with enterprise owners. The review was never carried out.

 

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Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) takes issue with the sudden move by Transport Canada to come down like a hammer on inshore fishermen who’ve had fishing vessels modified or cut in length without advance approval.

 

“Fishermen have been told for years by officials with Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and their own union that they didn’t need architectural drawings or advance approval to modify or cut a vessel to fish in the under 40’ fleet,” says Ryan Cleary, Interim Executive Director of SEA-NL.

 

“Now the same fishermen are being told they will be locked up, and/or slapped with million-dollar fines if they didn’t do what they were told they didn’t have to do,” added Cleary. “Sounds to me like grounds for a class-action lawsuit.”

 

Transport Canada officials say the owners of fishing vessels that have undergone major modifications to cut their overall length to under 40 feet — without having architectural plans (which can cost up to $30,000) approved in advance by the department — could face fines of up to $1 million and/or 18 months in jail.

 

The tie-ups, inspections, and possible further modifications could also cost fishermen untold tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

However, inshore harvesters in this province say it was never their understanding that their plans needed pre-approval. In recent years, dozens of them have purchased over 40-foot fishing vessels from the Maritimes, and had them modified (cut down) to be used in this province's under 40’ inshore fleet.

 

The move by Transport Canada Marine Safety and Security underscores the unfairness and chaos that comes from having two maximum base lengths for inshore fishing vessels in Eastern Canada — 39'll in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 49'11 in the Maritimes.

 

“DFO’s different policies amount to discrimination,” says Merv Wiseman, a long-time advocate for fishing vessel safety, and an organizer behind SEA-NL. “Why should Maritime fishermen be allowed bigger boats than ours. Is the safety of our fishermen worth any less?”

 

SEA-NL takes the stand that DFO should set a standard base length for all inshore fishing vessels in Atlantic Canada. Naval architects have said vessel-size restrictions are creating stability concerns in fishing vessels, and potential unsafe conditions at sea.

 

In June 2018 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans carried out a study of fishing vessel length in Atlantic Canada — recommending a full review of DFO's NL policy, and consultation with enterprise owners. The review was never carried out.

 

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SEA-NL calls on new federal Fisheries and Oceans minister to investigate allegations ‘pirate’ draggers destroying Grand Banks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, Nov. 1st, 2021

SEA-NL is calling on the new federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to launch an immediate investigation of foreign fishing outside Canada’s 200-mile limit in light of allegations that ‘pirate’ factory-freezer trawlers are destroying the Grand Banks under the department’s nose.

 

“Canada may have the toughest fishery enforcement within its own waters, but as long as it's a free-for-all once migratory stocks swim over the imaginary line that is the 200-mile limit those efforts are in vain,” says Ryan Cleary, Interim Executive Director of Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

“Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray must investigate the magnitude of the overfishing, and take immediate actions to stop it,” said Cleary. “This is not just about Newfoundland and Labrador, but a national food-security issue, as well as propelling a blue economy?”

 

Captain Christian Mathisen of the Faroese longliner Bordoyarnes alleged last week that “pirate” factory-freezer trawlers are destroying the Grand Banks by directing for moratorium species such as cod, along with other illegal fishing actives.

 

While Fisheries and Oceans is said to be aware of the illegal activity, Mathisen said enforcement officials have told him directly their hands are tied because Covid-19 protocols prevent boardings and inspections.

 

Mathisen said he tracked trawlers this past summer, and has “no doubt” they were illegally targeting various species such as cod, halibut and redfish ("everything they can get").

 

He warned “there will be nothing left to fish” if action isn’t taken. DFO was asked to respond to the allegations this week, but failed to respond.

 

In September, Mathisen himself was issued two separate “notices of infringement” for failing to report discards in his daily catch reports, although he said the infractions were the result a “misunderstanding.”

 

Mathisen said Faroe Islands fishermen don’t have to report discards, whereas discards must be reported when fishing in waters outside Canada’s 200-mile limit governed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO).

 

Mathisen said the actions of the factory-freezer trawlers — whose massive nets drag over the ocean floor — “are taking food from other fish and leaving nothing behind.”

 

While Canada lowers the hammer on its own fishermen for illegal fishing, NAFO rules dictate it's up to a vessel's home country to follow though with an investigation of a “notice of infraction," and any possible follow up. Fines that are imposed by a home country usually amount to a slap on the wrist.

 

Despite adjacent fishing fleets from Newfoundland and Labrador suffering through decades of commercial fishery shutdowns, foreign fleets have continued to pound migrating stocks once they cross over the 200-mile limit.

 

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the northern cod moratorium, and the loss of more than 30,000 direct jobs — which remains the biggest layoff in Canadian history.

 

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SEA-NL calls on province to investigate foreign control/corporate concentration in fish processing sector

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Tuesday, Aug. 23rd, 2021

SEA-NL is calling on Premier Andrew Furey to launch an investigation into foreign control/corporate concentration in the province’s fish processing sector to coincide with a similar ongoing federal review of offshore fishing licences.

 

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is currently reviewing foreign ownership/corporate-concentration of offshore licences to prevent foreign interests from establishing effective control over licence-holders.

 

“Ottawa’s review of offshore licences is only half the story, and only half the issues that must be addressed in the province’s fishery,” says Ryan Cleary, interim Executive Director of Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

“The whole story about potential illegal control of offshore and inshore fish quotas won’t be told until the Premier launches a parallel investigation.”

 

Federal jurisdiction over the commercial fisheries ends when the fish reaches the wharf, at which point the buying and processing of fish falls under provincial jurisdiction. 

 

In a letter Monday to Premier Furey (copy attached) SEA-NL formally requested the province investigate the processing sector; and, ideally, team-up with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in a sweeping probe to cover the province’s entire fishing industry (offshore and inshore fishing licences) from stem to stern.

 

In its review, Ottawa is reportedly preparing a mandatory ownership survey to be distributed to offshore licence holders. There are 97 offshore licences in Eastern Canada and the Arctic that are fished by the factory-freezer trawler fleet — accounting for 37% of total landings in Eastern Canada.

 

Further, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has held two hearings since May to investigate corporate offshore licences.

 

During those hearings, concerns were expressed about foreign control/corporate concentration in the processing sector in the Atlantic provinces by companies like Royal Greenland (wholly owned by the government of Greenland). Royal Greenland is the largest processing company in Newfoundland and Labrador today, and, combined with Ocean Choice International and the Barry Group, control most fish (and shellfish) processing in the province.

 

Cleary points out that other concerns have been raised by the FFAW-Unifor; as well as the province’s fish processing licensing board, which has described the level of foreign investment as “significant” by companies such as Royal Greenland that are normally “our competitors in world markets.”

 

Controlling agreements — which allow foreign and local processing companies operating in the province today to have power over inshore quotas of all species — are another source of concern.

 

 "Such agreements allow third parties to control, influence or benefit from a fishing licence, and raise alarm bells regarding food security, and sovereignty,” Cleary said.

 

Cleary pointed out that 20 years ago this year, in September 2001, the province appointed a special panel on foreign control/corporate concentration .

 

“The panel found that foreign investment wasn’t a huge factor in the fishery at the time, and recommended the creation of today’s fish processing licence board, which, ironically, said last year that the question of foreign ownership was outside its mandate when it approved Royal Greenland’s takeover of Quinlan Brothers.”

 

SEA-NL also called on the federal and provincial governments to investigate the amount of frozen, unprocessed fish that’s leaving Newfoundland and Labrador for processing in other countries such as China, and to make the information public. 

 

“The Newfoundland and Labrador fishery belongs to the people and communities of this province, and it’s up to the Premier to ensure our best interests are protected.”


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••••••••••

 

Aug. 23rd, 2021 


Premier Andrew Furey

The Office of the Premier

Confederation Building, East Block

P.O. Box 8700

St. John’s, NL

A1B4J6

 

E-mail: premier@gov.nl.ca 


Dear Premier,

 

As Interim Executive Director of Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL), a non-profit group representing independent, licensed owner-operator inshore fish harvesters, I write to you regarding issues of extreme importance to the future of the province’s fishery.


First, as you may be aware, the Government of Canada is currently reviewing foreign ownership/corporate-concentration of offshore fishing licences to prevent foreign interests from establishing effective control over licence-holders.


There are 97 offshore licences in Eastern Canada and the Arctic that are fished by the factory-freezer trawler fleet — accounting for 37% of total landings in Eastern Canada. 


Ottawa is said to be preparing a mandatory ownership survey to be distributed to offshore licence holders this fall. As well, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has held two meetings since May investigating corporate offshore licences.


SEA-NL’s primary concern is that the federal government’s ongoing review of the ownership of offshore quotas doesn’t go far enough.


DFO’s jurisdiction over the commercial fisheries ends when the fish reaches the wharf, at which point the buying and processing of fish falls under provincial jurisdiction. 


But foreign control/corporate concentration is also a huge concern in the processing sector — which is where the Newfoundland and Labrador government must step up. 


From SEA-NL's perspective, the Furey administration must investigate foreign ownership/corporate concentration in the processing sector, and, ideally, team-up with the feds in a sweeping probe so the entire fishing industry (offshore and inshore fishing licences) is covered from stem to stern.

 

As you’re aware, Royal Greenland, a Crown corporation owned by the Greenland government, became the largest fish processor in Newfoundland and Labrador in the fall of 2020 with a deal that included the purchase of Quinlan Brothers.


Indeed, three companies — Royal Greenland, Ocean Choice International, and the Barry Group — now control most of all fish (and shellfish) processing in the province.


The companies are also widely believed to control an unknown number of inshore fishing licences through so-called controlling agreements “whereby a person or corporation other than the named license-holder controls, influences and benefits from the license.”


Those controlling agreements are said to be rampant in Newfoundland and Labrador’s inshore fishery, which should set off alarm bells regarding food security, and the province's ability to economically capitalize on the inshore fishery. 


Questions for the provincial government include how extensive is foreign control/corporate concentration in the province’s processing sector, and how much inshore quota is controlled by entities other than inshore licence-holders?


Ottawa cannot answer these critical questions since it is not within its jurisdiction.


When Quinlan Brothers was purchased by Royal Greenland last year it was widely believed (and publicly speculated) that both companies were involved in illegal controlling agreements.


In September, 2020, the province's fish processing licence board recommended approving the Royal Greenland deal — even as it raised a red flag over foreign investment in the fishery by companies "who are normally our competitors in the world markets." 


“It raises the possibilities of key decisions affecting our industry and fishing communities here in Newfoundland and Labrador being made in another country,” the board said in a statement. “The level of investment is getting to be significant.”


How significant remains the outstanding question?


This past May, Keith Sullivan, President of the FFAW-Unifor, told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that the majority of some fishing fleets in the province are illegally owned by fish processing companies. 


“It’s obvious in every community. We can go around communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and say, ‘That’s a company boat and that’s a company boat.’ There seems to be a real hesitation on the part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to do anything about it.”


Mr. Premier, a review of foreign control/corporate concentration in the province’s fishery isn’t without precedent. In September 2001, the province appointed a special panel on corporate concentration.


The panel found that foreign investment wasn’t a huge factor in the fishery at the time, and recommended the creation of today’s fish processing licence board, which, ironically, said last year that the question of foreign ownership was outside its mandate. 


The allegations of foreign control must not go unchallenged. 


Another issue of critical importance to the future of the province’s commercial fisheries is the amount of unprocessed fish that’s leaving Newfoundland and Labrador for processing in other countries such as China.


In the past, efforts to obtain such information from the federal and provincial government have not been successful. 


SEA-NL is calling on the federal and provincial governments to investigate the amount of frozen, unprocessed fish that’s leaving Newfoundland and Labrador for processing in other countries such as China, and to make the information public. 


In Canada, fish is a common property resource, meaning owned by the people. How would Canadians feel if they knew untold millions of pounds of their fish are being shipped to foreign destinations for processing?


The time has come for both levels of government to dig into foreign ownership/corporate concentration in all sectors of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery — harvesting and processing — which can be equally damaging to the fishery of the future.  

 

Ryan Cleary,

Interim Executive Director, SEA-NL

 

c.c. ffaminister@gov.nl.ca

 

New voice for fish harvesters; SEA-NL to represent independent owner operators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Thursday, April 15th, 2021

A new group — the Seafood Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) — is being formed to serve as the independent voice of the province’s more than 3,000 licensed commercial inshore fish harvesters. 

“Owner-operators are a distinct group within the province’s fishing industry, and it’s high time they were recognized as such,” says Ryan Cleary, an inshore fisheries advocate, and one of the organizers. 

 

“The fish harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador must realize how much power they would have if they came together,” said Cleary. “No government, no union, no companies could stop them. Owner-operators should be leading their own industry, and a strong organization with a collective voice like SEA-NL could achieve that goal.”

 

Cleary, a former federal Member of Parliament, led the FISH-NL union (2016-2019) in an attempt to break all inshore harvesters away from the FFAW-Unifor, which represents competing sectors within the province’s fishery. The experience and insights gained from that battle — as well as the time spent since working as an inshore fishery consultant — highlight the critical need to establish an independent voice for licensed harvesters.

 

SEA-NL will represent the interests of licensed owner-operators only, and as an association won’t need permission from the province’s Labour Relations Board  to organize and incorporate. SEA-NL will not be in a position to negotiate fish prices, although that would be an eventual goal. 

 

“SEA-NL’s primary mission will be to support fish harvesters, advocate for healthy fisheries, and strengthen fishing communities,” said Merv Wiseman, another organizer. 

 

A one-time inshore fisherman himself, Wiseman has been an outspoken advocate for search and rescue and fishing vessel safety in the province, with extensive leadership/organizing experience in the province’s agriculture and fur-breeding industries. 

 

Benefits of SEA-NL would include: a distinct voice for owner-operators; membership votes on policy; breaks on insurance, fuel, fishing gear, etc. that would come with bulk purchases; freedom from conflicts of interest with other industry sectors, governments, and members; and a transparent and accountable organization.

 

SEA-NL would also gather information from DFO/government departments and then communicate regulations, industry news, and other important information to the membership. The association would represent the interests of owner-operators in terms of public policy, and industry, government and media relations.

 

“Owner-operators owe it to themselves to join the new association,” said Wiseman. “The leadership structure in the fishery today clearly isn’t working — not for fish harvesters, not for fish stocks, and certainly not for our province’s fishing communities.” 

 

Over the coming days SEA-NL plans to incorporate as a not-for-profit corporation, and undertake consultations/sign-ups with owner-operators around the province. From there, SEA-NL will set up a volunteer board of directors representing over/under 40’ fleets in fishing zones around the province, set membership fees, and establish an office with enabling staff.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Friday, June 11th, 2021

The Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc. (SEA-NL) has been formed to serve as the distinct voice of the province’s more than 3,000 licensed, commercial inshore fish harvesters — with membership signup officially starting today.

 

“It’s high time independent owner-operators were recognized as a distinct group within the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, with a say on all decisions that impact their enterprises,” says Ryan Cleary, organizer and interim Executive Director.

 

Since the plan to create SEA-NL was announced in mid-April, organizers Cleary and Merv Wiseman, well-known around the province as a search-and-rescue advocate, have created a non-profit company, and built a website (sea-nl.ca) containing membership and registration information. 

 

The plan is for SEA-NL to hold a convention in the fall to formally adopt bylaws, an organizational structure, and to elect a board of directors made up solely of independent, inshore owner-operators from all fishing zones around the province.

 

An office will be opened and temporary staff hired as soon as membership/funding allows. Owner-operators who join SEA-NL will eventually be offered breaks on benefits including fuel, fishing gear, etc. that would come with negotiated group purchases. 

 

In turn, SEA-NL will represent the interests of owner-operators in terms of fishery policy, and industry, government, and media relations, as well as overall communications. 

 

“Owner-operators run the enterprises upon which the inshore fishery is built, and should see SEA-NL as an opportunity to take a direct lead in the industry moving forward,” says Wiseman, who has extensive leadership/organizing experience. 

 

Cleary, a former federal Member of Parliament, led the FISH-NL union (2016-2019) in an unsuccessful attempt to break inshore harvesters away from the FFAW-Unifor, which represents all sectors within the province’s fishery. 

 

Unlike FISH-NL, SEA-NL will represent the interests of licensed owner-operators only (not crew), and as an association won’t need permission from the province’s Labour Relations Board to organize. SEA-NL will not be in a position to negotiate fish prices, although it will be well-positioned to influence their outcome, and other industry/government policy and fish management practices. 

 

SEA-NL’s primary mission will be to support fish harvesters, advocate for healthy fisheries, and strengthen fishing communities.

 

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Contact Ryan Cleary: 682-4862 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

The Seaward Enterprises Association, Newfoundland Labrador (SEA-NL) calls on the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to reverse her decision to limit the increase to the 2021 northern shrimp quota off southern Labrador and northeastern Newfoundland. 

 

“DFO went outside its own rule book to limit the increase to this year’s quota, which will translate into the loss of more than 2,000 tonnes of shrimp to the province’s inshore fleet,” says Ryan Cleary, interim Executive Director of SEA-NL, a new association to represent the province’s more than 3,000 independent owner-operators.

 

“Enterprise owners are being punished for their sacrifices and Mother Nature’s turnaround. SEA-NL calls on the minster to revisit her decision.”

 

Cleary wrote federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan Tuesday regarding her recent decision to institute a year-over-year limit of 15% to this year’s northern shrimp quota off southern Labrador and northeastern Newfoundland. (A copy of the letter is attached.)

 

The area, known as shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6, is fished mostly by the province’s inshore fleet, and is deemed to be in the “critical zone” under DFO’s precautionary approach management system. 

 

DFO science recorded an increase in the Area 6 spawning stock of 42% between 2020 and 2021, and harvesters expected a corresponding increase in quota. 

 

Instead, DFO set the 2021 quota for Area 6 shrimp at 9,534 tonnes, limiting the year-over-year quota increase to 15% — even though such limits to quota increases in critical zones aren’t mentioned in DFO’s Integrated Fisheries Management plan, which outlines the department’s “rules” for managing the shrimp stock.

 

“When those rules aren’t followed it leads to uncertainty, instability, and frustration in the fishing industry, particularly, in this case, amongst the province’s inshore shrimp fleet,” Cleary said. 

 

“A 40 per increase in the Area 6 shrimp quota would still only result in a 10% exploitation rate, which is what DFO’s own management plan allows for when a stock is in the critical zone.”

 

The difference in shrimp quota between a 15%-40% increase in quota for Area 6 amounts to a 2,072 tonne (4.6 million/lb loss) to Newfoundland and Labrador’s inshore fleet, which has struggled in recent years as the result of severe quota cuts.

 

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•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

 

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021 

 

Bernadette Jordan

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ont.,

Canada

K1A 0A6

 

Bernadette.Jordan@parl.gc.ca

 

Ms. Jordan,

 

I write regarding the recent decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to institute a year-over-year limit of 15% on increases to the total allowable catch (TAC) in Shrimp Fishing Area (SFA) 6 off southern Labrador and northeastern Newfoundland.

 

There is no mention in DFO’s Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for northern shrimp of such a year-over-year limit on quota increases when an SFA — such as Area 6 — is in the critical zone of DFO’s precautionary approach management framework. 

 

Inshore harvesters — who fish almost exclusively in SFA 6 — request that the 2021 quota be revisited to fall in line with the more than 40% increase in the stock recorded between 2020/2021.

 

While the IFMP highlights that it is not a legally binding instrument that can form the basis of a legal challenge, the document does outline an understanding of the basic “rules” for the management of the shrimp stock.

 

When those “rules” aren’t followed it leads to uncertainty, instability, and frustration in the fishing industry, particularly, in this case, amongst the province’s inshore shrimp fleet. 

 

The harvest decision rules (HDRs) in the IFMP clearly outline what happens when the spawning stock biomass (SSB) is in the healthy zone or above the upper stock reference (USR): “Changes in the TAC should generally not exceed 15% of the previous TAC, unless the stock is declining precipitously.”

 

Likewise, the HDRs also outline that when the SSB is between the limit reference point (LRP) and the USR (the so-called cautious zone): “Changes in the TAC should generally not exceed 15% of the previous TAC, unless the stock is declining precipitously.”

 

However, when the SSB is below the LRP (a.k.a. the critical zone) — which has been the case for a number of years in SFA 6 — the HDRs make no mention of changes in the TAC not exceeding 15% of the previous TAC.

 

But that’s exactly what happened with the 2021 quota in SFA 6, which has been set at  9,534 tonnes (a 15% increase from 2020) instead of a 42% increase that would have reflected the year-over-year growth in that shrimp stock.

 

The difference in shrimp quota between a 15%-40% increase in TAC for Area 6 amounts to 2,072 tonnes or 4.6 million/lbs to Newfoundland and Labrador’s inshore fleet, which has struggled in recent years as the result of severe quota cuts.

 

DFO clearly went outside its rule book in reducing the expected shrimp quota increase in SFA 6 to 15% from 40%, and inshore harvesters feel they’re being punished for their sacrifices and Mother Nature’s turnaround. 

 

On behalf of inshore harvesters who fish in SFA 6, I respectfully request that you immediately revisit the decision to limit the quota increase to 15%. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Ryan Cleary, 

Executive Director (Interim) 

SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association, Newfoundland Labrador