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“We can go around communities in NL and say, ‘That’s a company boat, and that’s a company boat’"

That's the word from the FFAW's Keith Sullivan. While it may be well-known in certain fishing circles which vessels/fleets are owned/controlled by domestic and foreign processing companies, Ottawa (which is currently reviewing ownership of offshore quotas) doesn't have jurisdiction to investigate. The province must step up.

Fishing vessels tied up at the Prosser's Rock small-boat basin on the south side of St. John's harbour.

DFO's constitutional grip over the NL fishery ends when the fish reaches the wharf, at which point the buying and processing of fish falls under provincial jurisdiction.

Ottawa is currently investigating foreign ownership in the country's offshore fisheries, which include 97 licences in Eastern Canada and the Arctic.

Those licences are fished by offshore factory-freezer trawlers, and account for roughly 37% of total landings.

SEA-NL wrote about it here: Ottawa has “crosshairs” on foreign ownership in offshore fishery"

While the feds limit foreign ownership of offshore quotas to 49%, it's been said that a foreign company with a Canadian subsidiary can own a corporate fishing licence easily enough.

How extensive is foreign control/corporate concentration in the NL processing sector, and how much inshore quota does it have under its thumb?

Keith Sullivan has described it like this:

Find Sullivan's full remarks here.

From SEA-NL's perspective, the Andrew Furey administration must investigate foreign ownership/corporate concentration in the processing sector, and, ideally, team-up with the feds in a sweeping probe so the entire fishing industry is covered from stem to stern.

Two key questions: who owns/controls the fish, and where is it being processed?

So-called controlling agreements give processing companies control over inshore fishing licences "whereby a person or corporation other than the named license-holder controls, influences and benefits from the license."

And they're rampant in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, setting off alarm bells regarding food security, and the province's ability to economically capitalize on its fishing industry.

In 2020, Quinlan Brothers was purchased by Royal Greenland, a processing company wholly owned by the Government of Greenland.

At the time, the FFAW said publicly it was widely believed that both Quinlan Brothers and Royal Greenland were involved in illegal controlling agreements.

Those allegations were never investigated to determine how much quota is controlled by Royal Greenland or locally owned companies like Ocean Choice International, and the Barry Group.

In September 2020 Royal Greenland took controlling interest in St. Anthony Seafoods in a partnership with Clearwater Seafoods.

In September, 2020 the province's fish processing licence board recommended approving the Royal Greenland deal, even as it raised a red flag over foreign investment in the fishery by companies "who are normally our competitors in the world markets." Find it here.

The board said the question of foreign investment was outside its mandate.

It's worth noting that the FFAW did not file a written objection with the board over the Royal Greenland takeover, which was approved by the provincial government in September 2020.

There were calls at the time for the House of Assembly to vote on the deal, but then-Fisheries minister Elvis Loveless said the legislature should not get involved because it was the job of the arms'-length board (which had already said the question of foreign ownership fell outside its mandate).

In May 2020, MHA Gerry Byrne (Fisheries minister before Loveless) called on Ottawa to investigate Royal Greenland's purchase of Quinlan Brothers. Find that here.

In the spring of 2020 during the height of the global Covid-19 pandemic Canada increased its scrutiny of foreign investment. Find it here.

But intense scrutiny doesn't appear to have been applied in the Royal Greenland case.

Why not?

Time for both the federal-provincial government to stop pussy-footing around, and dig into foreign ownership/corporate concentration in all sectors of the NL fishery.

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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