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January 2, 2024

On December 13th the federal Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO) presented its report on Foreign Ownership and Corporate Concentration of Fishing Licenses and Quota to the House of Commons. A request for Government response was also tabled on the 13th, prompting a comprehensive response to the Report within 150 days.

The report can be read in its entirety HERE.

37 witnesses testified before the Committee between May 8th and June 5th, 2023, for the study, representing harvester associations, fish processors, Indigenous organizations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and the Competition Bureau. FFAW-Unifor’s remarks were delivered on May 8th by President Greg Pretty, and can be read in full HERE.  

19 Recommendations were put forwarded by the Committee in their report for consideration by the House of Commons. The Recommendations that of most significance to inshore harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador are:

Recommendation 2: That the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard make it a condition of licence that the licence and quota holder be the licence owner with “boots on the deck” and that, before such licence is issued, it is proven that the licence holder is a Canadian citizen and/or a 100% Canadian-owned entity; that the proof of beneficial ownership be the responsibility of the licence holder in full, and that this policy be fully implemented within two years of the establishment of an independent fishery finance agency. (Detailed on page 16)

Recommendation 3: That, given the flaws in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Beneficial Ownership Survey, Fisheries and Oceans Canada provide a detailed update and projected timeline for establishing the Canadian ownership criteria for holders of licences and quota. The timeline for the full transition to Canadian ownership should be seven years or less, as recommended in the 2021 Gardner Pinfold Consultants Inc. report entitled Comparative analysis of commercial fisheries policies and regulations on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. (Detailed on page 16)

Recommendation 4: That an independent consultation and support office for fishers be established so that owner-operators have a forum where they can speak freely and consult, sheltered from pressures placed on them by markets and by foreign companies. (Detailed on page 17)

Recommendation 5: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada suspend licences that are found to be used in contravention of current and new Owner-Operator policies until such infraction is remedied. (Detailed on page 22)

Recommendation 6: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada prohibit the transfer and sale of snow crab fishing licences outside the provinces where they were issued, and that residency criteria be standardized between provinces and set at a number of years of residency that will make it possible to stop the acquisition of these licences, so that they remain within the respective communities and provinces. (Detailed on page 22)

Recommendation 7: That, in relation to sales and purchases of vessels, licences and quota, transactions involving lawyers’ trust accounts be subject to oversight from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) in order to facilitate the identification of money laundering operations. (Detailed on page 28)

Recommendation 8: That any acquisition with an individual or a cumulative market share of 20% or more by a corporation or beneficial owner trigger a review by the Competition Bureau. (Detailed on page 28)

Recommendation 9: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognize, affirm, and incorporate the guiding principle that Canada’s fisheries are a public good, and that the benefit from those fisheries should first and foremost support the people of Canada and the communities which rely on the fisheries. (Detailed on page 31)

Recommendation 10: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada implement an ecosystemic approach involving integrated management to ensure that it is not always reacting rather than acting (Detailed on page 31)

Recommendation 11: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada develop a regulatory framework making access easier for the next generation of fishers and guaranteeing healthy management and intergenerational transfers by considering the socio-economic impacts experienced by communities. (Detailed on page 31)

Recommendation 12: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognize that it is imperative to favour food sovereignty in fisheries in Canada and that the various departments involved collaborate more with each other in order to prioritize food security and sovereignty and to preserve the culture and identity of coastal communities, while acting with full transparency. (Detailed on page 32)

Recommendation 18: That the Government of Canada establish, within five years, an independent fishery financing agency, similar to Farm Credit Canada, with sufficient risk tolerance to finance and mentor new entrants to acquire licences and quota and to refinance existing licence holders to become independent of illegal trust and supply agreements with fish processors. (Detailed on page 35)

Recommendation 19: That the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard develop a strategy with their provincial counterparts, while respecting provincial jurisdiction, to reduce foreign ownership and corporate concentration at both levels of responsibility. (Detailed on page 36)

The Report’s conclusion on pages 36 and 37 explicitly cite an excerpt from Pretty’s testimony:

“Will the future of our fishery be vibrant and sustainable—composed of thousands of small businesses in the water that continue to contribute to the rich fabric of culture and our country’s economy—or will it be controlled by a small handful of companies, processed offshore or internationally, removing the wealth of our sustainable resources from the adjacent communities that depend on them, in order to serve another country’s bottom line?”
3 NL MPs sit on the FOPO Committee, Churence Rogers, Clifford Small, and Ken McDonald as Committee Chair. With a response due in 150-days, it is crucial for ML MPs to hear directly from harvesters on the need to implement the Recommendations in the Report. Connect with your MP and discuss the impacts of corporate concentration and the value of making these Recommendations future policy:

🔴Seamus O’Regan (St. John’s South – Mount Pearl): / 709-772-4608
🔴Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains): / Corner Brook: 709-637-4540, St. Anthony: 709-454-3253, Stephenville: 709-643-4189
🔴Yvonne Jones (Labrador): / 709-927-5210
🔴Churence Rogers (Bonavista-Burin-Trinity): / Clarenville: 709-466-6502, Grand Bank: 709-832-1383, Centreville: 709-678-9026
🔵Clifford Small (Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame): / 709-489-8470
🔴Ken McDonald (Avalon): / 709-834-3424
🔴Joanne Thompson (St. John’s East): / 709-772-7171