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Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters, plant workers to suffer at loss of surf clam quota

February 23, 2018

The recent decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to give 25 per cent of the current quota for Arctic surf clams to new entrants to the fishery has raised serious concerns for members of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor).

“Inshore owner-operator vessels are capable of being engaged in the arctic surf clam fishery,” says Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor. “In an area like Placentia Bay that has been devastated by the decline in crab and cod, surf clams would present an excellent opportunity for rural economic sustainability in the region.”

Inshore harvesters in this area are facing economic conditions that rival the cod moratorium. The severe decline of a large variety of commercially valuable fish resources in this area is unprecedented, necessitating immediate action by the provincial and federal governments. Inshore fish harvesters and south coast communities are more dependent on the small-scale cod fishery now more than any time in decades.

Moreover, the fish processing sector in Newfoundland and Labrador has faced some very significant challenges in recent years due to a decline in various fish species. Arctic surf clam has played a vital role in ensuring plant workers in Grand Bank have good paying, full-time jobs—something that has been increasingly scarce in our province’s fish processing sector in recent years. Now, there are serious concerns that a cut in Clearwater’s surf clam quota will result in job losses and a reduction in hours of work at their facility.

“Inshore harvesters would be landing the clams onshore, giving Clearwater the opportunity to work with inshore harvesters in this fishery to meet processing needs,” adds Sullivan.

Upon the announcement of a new license for surf clam, harvesters and the Union were disappointed to learn that the owner-operator fleet was not eligible to apply, as the new license would be reserved for a First Nations application.

“There is room to pursue First Nations reconciliation and rural economic sustainability simultaneously. There is space in the surf clam fishery for owner-operator harvesters and First Nations participation. As it stands now, our province will suffer greatly as a result of the decision,” concludes Sullivan.