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Province reviews foreign investment in fish processing sector as feds investigate fishing licences

Just as the province begins a review of foreign investment in the fish processing sector (16 months after being advised to do so), the feds announced Thursday that online surveys will be mandatory, starting Jan. 31st, for inshore harvesters to reveal the ownership interests (direct or indirect) in their enterprises.


Royal Greenland bought out Quinlan Brothers, including the Bay de Verde plant, in 2020.



DFO's Beneficial Ownership Survey will be available online from Jan. 31-to March 31, and is designed to reveal who benefits from access to commercial fishing across Canada — including amount of access, concentration of access, and foreign ownership.


At the same time that the feds investigate foreign ownership/corporate concentration in the harvesting sector, provincial Fisheries launched a voluntary online questionnaire this week on foreign "investment" (a.k.a. control) in the processing sector.


Department officials are busy arranging/holding zoom meetings.


SEA-NL can't add much more than what we've already said (see below), but we're scheduled for a 12:30 meeting on Monday, Jan. 24th. (The Minister won't be there.)


If any SEA-NL members have something to say/want to contribute contact me at sea-nl@outlook.com. (You might be better off filling out the online questionnaire above.)


The following timeline reveals the province's review of foreign investment in the processing sector comes almost a year and a half after the Fish Processing Licensing Board made the recommendation, and then after some pushing.


TIMELINE


March 13, 2020 — News breaks: Quinlan Bros. to be sold to Royal Greenland in another N.L. fishery shakeup


Sept. 9, 2020 — Fish Processing Licensing Board approves Quinlan Bros. sale to Royal Greenland.

The Board also warned foreign investment was "getting to be significant." Wrote the board: "This matter is outside of our jurisdiction as a Board; however, it might be a policy matter that the government may want to pursue."


Sept. 24th, 2020 — Then provincial Minister Elvis Loveless rules out legislative debate/vote on Royal Greenland deal to protect independence of Licensing Board (even though board said foreign investment was outside its jurisdiction).


Aug. 10th, 2021 — SEA-NL reveals internal memo from Atlantic Groundfish Council representing offshore draggers, warning Ottawa has “crosshairs” on foreign ownership in offshore fishery.


Aug. 17th, 2021 — SEA-NL posts Keith Sullivan testimony before Commons committee earlier in the spring on the extent of foreign control/corporate concentration in NL processing sector: “We can go around communities in NL and say, ‘That’s a company boat, and that’s a company boat’"


Aug. 23rd, 2021 — SEA-NL writes Premier Andrew Furey to formally ask his government to investigate foreign control/corporate concentration in processing sector


Aug. 27th, 2021 — SEA-NL post reveals: Royal Greenland deal wasn't reviewed to determine foreign country's control over NL fishery


Sept. 7th, 2021 — SEA-NL press release: SEA-NL encouraged by provincial review of foreign investment in fishery Minister Derrick Bragg had outlined his department's commitment to a foreign investment review in a Sept. 3rd letter to SEA-NL.


At the time, I thought it was highly unusual that the provincial government didn't issue a press release to announce its review of foreign ownership.


A voluntary questionnaire and consultations with stakeholders sounds like the province is doing something, but is it?


From SEA-NL's perspective (and we said this last year), for any investigation of foreign investment/corporate concentration in the NL fishery to be thorough, the province must team-up with DFO to cover the entire fishing industry (fishing and processing) from stem to stern.


Who controls the fishing licences? Whose strings are being pulled? Who's doing the pulling?


That's one tangled net to unravel.


Ryan Cleary,

SEA-NL


SEA-NL founding convention will be held virtually on Feb. 8th, 2021, and will be open to all owner-operator members in good standing. To join SEA-NL go here.

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