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The union that represents fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador says the province needs to call a halt to the acquisition of Quinlan Brothers by Royal Greenland until the matter can be debated and voted on in the House of Assembly.
Last week the provincial fisheries minister, Elvis Loveless, on the recommendation of the Fish Processing Licensing Board, approved a change of ownership of Quinlan Brothers and St. Anthony Seafoods.
The minister granted approval for Quin-Sea Fisheries to purchase Quinlan Brothers. Quin Sea is a subsidiary company of Royal Greenland, which is owned by the Government of Greenland.
The change in ownership of St. Anthony Seafoods would see Quin-Sea purchase the shares held in the company by the St. Anthony Basin Resources Inc. (SABRI) and form a joint partnership with Clearwater Seafoods, which currently owns majority shares in the company.
In a press release Tuesday, FFAW president Keith Sullivan said if the purchase of Quinlan Brothers is allowed to proceed, it would create the largest processing company in the history of the province, in terms of percentage of processing under its control.
“The elimination of Quinlan Brothers as competition means that three large processing companies now control approximately 75 percent of all fish processing in the province, and close to 85 percent of the lucrative shellfish processing in the province, which has an export value in excess of $500 million per year," Sullivan said in a press release.
In an interview with SaltWire, Sullivan said that level of corporate concentration would practically eliminate competition for the catches of fish harvesters.
“It is well-established that competition, wages, and price suffers as corporate concentration increases in a free-market system,” said Sullivan. “Fish harvesters in this province are already feeling the effects of a concentrated processing sector as companies have worked together to limit the ability of harvesters to change buyers.”
Sullivan also alleges Quinlan Brothers has financed many inshore fishing enterprises in this province, essentially giving them control over those enterprises through controlling agreements.
He questions what will happen if those agreements are now controlled by Royal Greenland.
“If we are going to upend the economics of the fishery in this province, there must be more than just a recommendation from a four-person unelected board that was incorrect in its reporting. It is imperative that this acquisition be debated on the floor of the House of Assembly. — Keith Sullivan
Sullivan also takes issue with the statement by the Fish Processing Licencing Board that there was no opposition to the change of ownership application for Quinlan Brothers.
According to Sullivan, the FFAW outlined its concerns to the licencing board in writing, and in person, when the board met in September to deal with the application.
Sullivan said he could not provide a copy of that written opposition because it contained information that could infringe on the privacy of fish harvesters if published.
Sullivan also said the whole process of determining ownership, or ownership transfers of processing licences needs to be more open and accountable.
He alleges neither the province nor the licensing board, did a great job advertising the fact these applications were up for consideration.
The applications were noted on the provincial government's website, in a link within the fisheries department link.
Sullivan says the decision-making process on processing licences needs an overhaul.
“If we are going to upend the economics of the fishery in this province, there must be more than just a recommendation from a four-person unelected board that was incorrect in its reporting. It is imperative that this acquisition be debated on the floor of the House of Assembly and a vote on a motion for or against this Royal Greenland-Quinlan Brothers purchase needs to be held,” Sullivan said.