FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Feb. 22nd, 2018
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says Ottawa’s decision to award a new Arctic surf clam licence to East Coast aboriginal groups amounts to Indigenous reconciliation on the backs of inshore harvesters and rural communities.
Further, it reinforces FISH-NL’s stand that the principles of adjacency and historical attachment — which would ensure inshore harvesters have priority access to fish off their shores — should be included in recent amendments to the federal Fisheries Act.
“Our inshore harvesters and rural communities should be at the head of the line for any new quotas,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “Our harvesters are starving for fish, and the feds are taking from the few healthy stocks we have left, and carving them up for groups with no connection to the resource. That’s just wrong.”
Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced Wednesday that a new license for Arctic surf clams — harvested on the Grand Banks and off Nova Scotia — will be issued to a new entrant in the fishery, Five Nations Clam Company.
With the new licence, the company — comprised of First Nations from this province, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick — has been granted 25 per cent of the existing 38,000-tonne Arctic surf clam quota for the 2018 fishery. Five Nations Clam Company will partner with Nova Scotia-based Premium Seafoods to harvester, process and market the catch.
Furthermore, LeBlanc announced in July, 2017 that first access to the growing redfish stock in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will be given to the Qalipu First Nation — and caught and processed by west coast fish processor/harvester Bill Barry.
Gulf of St. Lawrence redfish has been under moratorium since 1995, but the stock is said to be experiencing a dramatic turnaround. By the time a quota is allocated in 2019, it could be in the tens of thousands of tonnes.
Cleary pointed out that Newfoundland and Labrador’s inshore harvesters are more than capable of harvesting Arctic surf clams and redfish.
“Most of our commercial stocks are in trouble or headed that way, and the Government of Canada is oblivious to the impact on inshore harvesters and the outports they support,” said Cleary. “The question must be asked whether Ottawa is purposely trying to kill the inshore fishery, and rural Newfoundland and Labrador along with it?”
The Trudeau government recently announced proposed amendments to the federal Fisheries Act to protect fish habitat, which requires the minister of Fisheries and Oceans to consider the possible impacts of Indigenous rights with all decisions.
The principles of adjacency and historical attachment weren’t included in the amendments, even though they were adopted by the Liberal Party of Canada, championed by provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne, and used to overturn the controversial last in, first out (LIFO) policy in the northern shrimp fishery last year.
"Our inshore fisheries and rural communities cannot continue to withstand these repeated strikes against our industry and culture, and we call upon the federal government to review these policy changes to ensure inshore harvesters are included in the decision-making process. Where is their reconciliation?