Fish companies circumventing the law

December 10, 2002

Canadian fish companies are brazenly circumventing government fisheries policy and buying up fishing licenses in the lobster and crab fisheries throughout Atlantic Canada by exploiting a legal loophole that could unravel the whole economic and social fabric of the East coast according to major fishermen’s organisations from Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland.

Spokesperson Earle McCurdy said that unless something is done soon the Canadian tradition of having independent fishermen as the backbone of the Atlantic fishing fleet will disappear forever.

“We believe in a robust owner-operator fishery, independent of the processing sector and that this is best for the economic well-being of coastal communities and the conservation of the resource.”

“It is a very slippery slope. Once corporations get a hold on the inshore and midshore fishing licenses there will be no turning back. It will inevitably lead to concentration of fishing rights, which will be disastrous for our coastal communities. It could also open the door to foreign ownership of lobster and crab licences as foreign companies demand equal treatment under Canada’s different free-trade agreements”, he added.

Corporations and fish processors are explicitly prohibited by the government fleet separation policy from owning licenses in the inshore and midshore fisheries. However, this policy is being systematically undermined by corporations and other investors. McCurdy said fishermen are alarmed that the government hasn’t yet moved to stop this and they fear that the government’s new Atlantic Fisheries Policy will sidestep the issue.

«Fishermen and their organizations in every major fishing community from Quebec to Newfoundland have been asking the government to do something about this problem for over a year now and the penny hasn’t dropped yet. The government does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation.»

The fishermen’s organizations made an emergency appearance today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to ask for its support. They are asking the government to plug the loophole and strengthen the fleet separation policy before it is too late.

You can see the media release in its original format here.