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Historic Victory for Fish Harvesters as Owner-Operator Policy Becomes Law

June 19, 2019

Historic Victory for Fish Harvesters as Owner-Operator Policy Becomes Law

After more than a decade of advocacy by fish harvester organizations from across the country, yesterday evening Bill C-68 passed a final reading on the Senate and now awaits Royal Assent. The Bill made some of the most substantial changes to the Fisheries Act since it was introduced 150 years ago. The amendments enshrine owner-operator and fleet separation policies in law, giving the federal government the power to effectively prevent corporations from holding independent fish harvesters in controlling agreements.

“These long-awaited legislative changes are the product of tremendous effort on the part of fish harvesters from across Canada who worked collectively for more than a decade to lobby the federal government to protect independent, owner-operator fish harvesters,” said Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President.

Owner-operator and fleet separation policies are the only thing maintaining our access to the resources on our doorstep, safeguarding the inshore fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador and injecting significant wealth into every corner of the province.

Over the past twenty years there has been a sustained attack on these policies, primarily by processing companies and foreign investors, that has had serious economic repercussions for the fishery and coastal regions. As a result, corporations have gained control of licenses and have siphoned the wealth and benefits of the inshore fisheries from our coastal communities, leaving enterprises with a lot less for wages and investment. Of particular concern is the impact that controlling and trust agreements have had on the cost of fishing licenses, which has made it extremely difficult for young people to enter the fishery.

“The strong legal protections introduced through Bill C-68 ensure young fish harvesters aren’t pushed out of the industry just because they can’t compete with a Bay Street investor who’s willing to pay double the price for a license,” continued Sullivan. “These historic changes to the Fisheries Act will protect our industry and our coastal communities today and for future generations.”

Bill C-68 now awaits Royal Assent. Over the past year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans drafted regulations associated with the amendments to the Act. Before they are enacted, these new regulations will be open for public comment through the Canada Gazette. The consultation process is expected to take place in the coming months.

For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode at or 709-743-4445.