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More hope for non-core groundfish licence holders

Fisheries and Oceans has decided not to appeal a federal court ruling ordering the federal Minister to reconsider a decision not to allow certain lobster licenses in the Maritimes to be sold or handed down.

St. John's harbour.

The decision is being closely watched by non-core commercial fishing license holders in this province, who also can't sell or pass on their licenses so they effectively die with them.

SEA-NL takes the stand that if DFO changes its policy regarding an estimated 80 Category B lobster licenses in the Maritimes, the department must do the same for the estimated 450 non-core groundfish licenses in this province — and wrote the federal minister in Jan. 21st to express just that.

"The non-core license holders/members of SEA-NL respectfully request that in reconsidering the request of the Nova Scotia Category B lobster license holder to change the status of his licence, you do the same with non-core groundfish licences in Newfoundland and Labrador," read the SEA-NL letter.

SEA-NL plans to launch a federal petition in the coming days in support of DFO changing its policy regarding non-core groundfish licenses.

Besides the fact a non-core commercial fishing licence in this province can’t be sold or handed down, the holder is also restricted on vessel size (28 feet, which is a danger in itself), and is disqualified from applying for funding under federal government programs like the Atlantic Fisheries Fund.

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.

Non-core licence holders are asked to contact SEA-NL at to join our efforts. Or, if you know a non-core licence holder, contact us with their names and we'll reach out to them.

DFO will not release the list of non-core licence holders in NL for confidentiality reasons, which is why we need a hand.


During its recent virtual Founding Convention, SEA-NL also passed a resolution regarding non-core.

Resolution 1: Non-core Groundfish Licenses

Whereas, non-core commercial groundfish licences in Newfoundland and Labrador represent a lifetime investment by the holders of those licences;

Whereas, non-core licence holders cannot divest, transfer or integrate their non-core lifetime investment into a family succession plan;

Whereas, non-core licence holders are deemed to have a fundamental retirement entitlement based on their occupational lifetime investment;

Whereas, a non-core licence become null and void at the expiration of its holder in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador;

Whereas, on Dec. 22, 2021 Federal Court Justice Heneghan set aside a decision by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to reject a request by a Nova Scotia fisherman to transfer His Category B lobster licence, and the matter be returned to the federal Minister for redetermination;

Whereas, a non-core groundfish licence in Newfoundland and Labrador is the same as a Category B lobster licence in the Maritimes in that it can’t be sold or transferred;

Be it resolved, Fisheries and Oceans Canada change the status of non-core commercial groundfish licences in Newfoundland and Labrador so that they can be divested in a manner determined by the enterprise licence holder, similar to those of core enterprise owners.

Ryan Cleary,


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