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SEA-NL encouraged by provincial review of foreign investment in fishery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, Sept. 7th, 2021


Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is encouraged by news that the province has finally commenced a review of its policies related to foreign investment in the fishery, with consultations planned for this fall.

“It’s unfortunate this review wasn’t done last year before the provincial government signed off on Royal Greenland’s purchase of Quinlan Brother’s, but Premier Andrew Furey's administration must be credited for finally taking action to protect the province’s interests,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s interim Executive Director.

“Our message now is for complete transparency, for the province to consult as broadly as possible, and for no stone to be left unturned to reveal the true extent of foreign control/corporate concentration within our commercial fisheries.”

Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture Minister Derrick Bragg wrote SEA-NL on Friday, Sept. 3rd, to reveal his department has begun work on a review of its policies regarding foreign ownership in the fishery. Bragg advised that consultations with industry stakeholders are scheduled for late October-November.

The minister’s letter was in response to one written by Cleary to Premier Furey on Aug. 23rd requesting the province investigate foreign control/corporate concentration in the fish processing sector.

Such a provincial government review, Cleary noted, would coincide with a similar ongoing federal review of foreign ownership/corporate concentration of offshore fishing licences.

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 his letter to the premier, Cleary formally requested the province investigate the processing sector; and, ideally, team-up with Fisheries and Oceans in a sweeping probe to cover the province’s entire fishing industry (offshore and inshore fishing licences) from stem to stern.

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.

It's been said that when Royal Greenland bought locally-owned Quinlan Brother's last year it also took over the company’s controlling agreements, which gave the Crown corporation owned by the Greenland government control over inshore fishing licences and quotas in this province.

Controlling agreements are illegal, and allow third parties to control, influence or benefit from a fishing licence — raising alarm bells regarding food security and sovereignty.

Such agreements also eliminate competition, and inflate the price of fishing licences, making them too expensive for young harvesters to buy.

Royal Greenland’s purchase of Quinlan Brothers did not trigger an automatic review by Investment Canada because the value of the deal was considered too low. Such a review would have determined the deal's net benefit to the country.

When the province's Fish Processing Licensing Board recommended the Royal Greenland/Quinlan Brother's deal, the board noted the question of foreign ownership in the fishery (which was getting “significant”) was outside its jurisdiction.

Despite that, then-Minister Elvis Loveless was adamant the provincial legislature should not get involved in making decisions about fish processing licences in the province.

"Foreign ownership of a common property resource like fish should concern all Canadians,” said Cleary. “Ideally the provincial review, together with the federal investigation, will safeguard our most precious resources.”

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