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SEA-NL launches petition urging Ottawa to change status of non-core groundfish 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 full-, and part-time 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 their sale of their licences 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 is based on a resolution passed in early February at SEA-NL’s founding convention, and is open to all Canadians to sign. The petition will be presented in the Commons by Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame Conservative MP Clifford Small.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director,


To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail

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