OCI complains of Clearwater monopoly

Published on December 22, 2015
Federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans Hunter Tootoo speaks at a federal announcement Dec. 16. Tootoo says decisions about the Arctic clam fishery will not be made until there are further consultations regarding its stability. — CP Photo<br /></span>

Ocean Choice International (OCI) says a business proposal worth 150 jobs and an estimated $12 million in new payroll is being shut down by a federal government quota decision.

The increase was announced in July, under former minister Gail Shea.

While keeping the quota at 38,756 tonnes, Tootoo has also committed to not allowing new entrants into the fishery until further scientific study can be completed.

"He said further decisions about this fishery will not be taken until he is confident of its long-term sustainability and until further consultations could be held through the Surf Clam Advisory Committee, including input from the current licence holder, industry and indigenous groups about the possibility of new entrants into this fishery," reads the notice on the decision.

The current licence holder is Clearwater Seafoods, with its processing plant at Grand Bank, notes a separate statement issued by OCI on Monday evening.

"Currently, Clearwater Seafoods has a monopoly in this fishery and we do not believe that is a healthy situation for constructive development of the surf clam resource and the associated economic opportunity for Atlantic Canadians," it reads.

"It is well understood by industry participants that the current monopoly position has led to only about half the current quota being harvested for more than the past 25 years, and there has been a significant loss in economic benefits to the industry."

The company said it is fully supportive of science efforts in the name of the fishery, but asked the minister to reconsider his decision.

New entrants to the fishery need to apply for approval and OCI's application suggested the potential for the company to provide 150 new year-round jobs in Atlantic Canada, $12 million in direct payroll annually and an additional $12 million in economic spinoffs.

In announcing the previously planned increase in quota, the former minister touted the economic benefits to the region.

The news release issued by Clearwater Seafoods was received at 4:50 p.m. NLT. A representative for Clearwater Seafoods could not be reached for a response as of deadline.

Meanwhile, as reported, the Town of Burin was also eyeing clams and roughly 100 related jobs in a proposed processing operation.

The council acquired the former High Liner Foods plant in the community and, in November, announced a deal with Cooke Clam Group, wherein Cooke would process clams at the plant if awarded a licence by DFO given the planned quota increase.

But the Grand Bank town council questioned that plan and what it might mean for the existing Clearwater Seafoods operation.

Grand Bank mayor Rex Matthews has since publicly welcomed Tootoo's decision.