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Sliver of hope for non-core groundfish licence holders

There may be some light for non-core groundfish licence holders in Newfoundland and Labrador in their ongoing fight for the right to either sell or pass on their licences following a December federal court decision involving a Nova Scotia lobster licence.


The decision involved a so-called Class B lobster license in Nova Scotia, which — like a non-core commercial groundfish licence here in this province — can’t be sold/transferred, and dies with the holder.


A Nova Scotia lobster fisherman had asked former federal Fisheries and Oceans minister Bernadette Jordan permission to sell his Class B lobster license, and when she refused for conservation reasons his lawyer asked for a judicial review.

In December, federal court Justice Elizabeth Heneghan set aside Jordan's decision so that the fisherman’s request to sell his license will go back to the federal government.


DFO has until Feb. 7 to appeal the decision.


The estimated 80 class B lobster licences in the Maritimes are in the same boat as 492 non-core groundfish licenses in Newfoundland and Labrador (as of 2020) in that they can't be sold or transferred.


SEA-NL takes the stand that if DFO changes its policy for Class B lobster licenses in the Maritimes the department should do the same for non-core groundfish licenses in this province, and is writing the federal minister to make that clear.


One fishing industry observer warned SEA-NL not to assume anything given DFO changed its fishing vessel-length regulations for the Maritimes last year, but the policy is different for this province.


SEA-NL wrote about the issue of non-core licences here: Core vs non-core: should certain commercial fishing licences die with fishermen?


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.



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 sea-nl@outlook.com 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.


Ryan Cleary,

SEA-NL

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