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Ottawa has “crosshairs” on foreign ownership in offshore fishery

While they're at it, the feds should dig into the amount of offshore quota that's frozen at sea and shipped to foreign countries for processing. Fish caught by the Canadian offshore dragger fleet accounts for 37% of total landings in Eastern Canada, but the federal/provincial governments can't/won't say how much of that is shipped to countries like China.

Launched in 2020, OCI's offshore dragger the Calvert is the first trawler built for the offshore fishery in Atlantic Canada since the 1980s. Four of OCI's five trawlers provide frozen-at-sea groundfish like cod, flounder, halibut, turbot, and redfish.

In Canada, fish is a common property resource, meaning owned by the people.

Ottawa limits foreign ownership of offshore quotas to 49%, but how would Canadians feel if they knew untold millions of pounds of their fish are being shipped to foreign destinations for processing.

So much for "our" fish. So much for Canadian food security. So much for the East Coast/Newfoundland and Labrador maximizing on its commercial fisheries.

And the fact that Ottawa and the NL governments don't know/won't say how much whole fish is being shipped to foreign countries is wrong.


The offshore fishery in eastern Canada is made up of factory-freezer trawlers greater than 100 feet in length. The fleet catches fish for the 97 offshore licences in Eastern Canada and the Arctic, which, again, account for roughly 37% of total landings. (That information is found here,)

In mid-July, the Atlantic Groundfish Council, which represents offshore licence holders, gave a "heads-up" to members that DFO has begun consultations on corporate concentration/foreign ownership in the offshore sector.

This is a paragraph from that memo:

"It appears that the Atlantic Fishery is clearly in the crosshairs," the memo read, with DFO is preparing a mandatory ownership survey.

The following is from a slide presentation the Atlantic Groundfish Council forwarded to its members. Beneficial ownership refers to individuals who directly/indirectly own or control 25% or more of a company.

At the same time that Ottawa is going after foreign ownership of offshore licences, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is studying corporate offshore licences. Find testimony here.


On Canada's East Coast, a company must be at least 51% Canadian-owned to hold an offshore fishing licence. The licence-holder, and all parent companies that hold a controlling interest in that licence must be majority owned by Canadians to prevent foreign interests from controlling offshore licences.

In testimony before a parliamentary committee, Adam Burns, DFO’s director general of fisheries resource management, said all 97 offshore licences currently meet Canadian ownership requirements (the 51%). But DFO’s jurisdiction ends when the fish reaches the wharf, at which point the buying and processing of fish falls under provincial jurisdiction.

And it's at that point that foreign ownership in the East Coast fishery appears to be more in your face. (Think Royal Greenland.)

As Keith Sullivan of the FFAW put it this past spring, "We can go around communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and say, “That's a company boat and that's company boat.”

More on that in the next piece.

Ryan Cleary,


Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.

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