FISH-NL questions whether complaints against Royal Greenland smokescreen to cover the fact local processors underpaying fishermen

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, Feb. 11, 2019

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) questions whether the Dwight Ball government supports inshore harvesters being paid top dollar for their fish.


“Local processors and buyers have been screaming bloody murder because Royal Greenland is paying harvesters more for their product — forcing them to increase their prices,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “That tells us the minimum negotiated price is too low, and reinforces our stand that the province should open the door to outside buyers.”

“It’s time for the provincial government and the FFAW-Unifor to say which side they’re on — with inshore harvesters and free enterprise, or against them.”

In a Jan. 3rd, 2019 letter (copies are included below) to Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne — and forwarded to all members of the House of Assembly — the Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPONL) stated its intention to file a complaint with the federal Competition Bureau over Royal Greenland’s operations in the province. 

In March 2016, Royal Greenland purchased Quin-Sea Fisheries, one of the province’s largest seafood processors, operating a half-dozen plants in the province, the largest one in Old Perlican, Trinity Bay.

In the letter, Francis Littlejohn, SPONL’s executive director, wrote of Royal Greenland’s “unfair competitive practices,” and “blatant efforts to eliminate all the small competing processors” — although he didn’t get into specifics. 

“As stated in our letter to the Competition Bureau it is our belief that the introduction of Royal Greenland, a foreign government owned corporation, into the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is the most concerning issue of our time, on par with, or even greater than, the dissolution of Fishery Products International which was previously the flagship of our provincial fishing industry,” Littlejohn wrote. 

Cleary questions whether that’s a smoke screen.

“Local processors and buyers have been underpaying inshore harvesters for years, and this may prove that to be the case.”

In May 2018, the provincial government suspended Quin-Sea’s lobster processing licence in Southern Harbour and seized large quantities of shellfish. At the time, provincial Fisheries Minster Gerry Byrne said the rare suspension was issued following a series of inspections that uncovered violations of the province's Fish Inspection Act. 

The company has been buying lobster in big numbers from harvesters in Placentia and Fortune Bays, as well as other areas, leading to accusations of overcrowding in the holding pen.

“There have been accusations in the past about processors and buyers forming a cartel. Inshore harvesters question whether this is the beginning.”