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Surf clam quota should stay in Newfoundland, Byrne says

Advanced Education and Skills Minister Gerry Byrne.
Gerry Byrne

Federal minister told resource ‘must’ be primarily for the people adjacent to it

Provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne returned from New Brunswick Thursday evening after “solid discussion” with the federal minister on Arctic surf clams.

Byrne said he told Dominic LeBlanc he supports movements toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, but asked for some considerations in the name of adjacency, as the minister moves to re-allocate Arctic surf clam quotas.

Clearwater Seafoods has held all licences for Arctic surf clams, processing at a plant in Grand Bank. LeBlanc announced a new licence will be part of the fishery in September, and 25 per cent of the quota will be allocated to the new entrant — to be an Indigenous entry based in Atlantic Canada or Quebec.

In response, Indigenous groups have been establishing business partnerships and matching up with existing industry players to try to win the new licence and quota.

Apart from interest coming from different provinces, there are also competitors within the provinces.

“What has started has really become a story of community versus community, or province versus province and, really, Indigenous community versus Indigenous community,” Byrne told The Telegram.

In the meeting with LeBlanc, he said, he stressed the need for a framework to avoid in the future the conflicts now arising.

At the same time, he said, he told the minister adjacency “must be” taken into account in allocations, and that plant workers, fish harvesters and communities in Newfoundland and Labrador who are at the centre of the changes “must be” compensated for any negative results from the decision.

Byrne also said any quota beyond the 25 per cent yet to be assigned “must” remain within Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ultimately, the decisions rest entirely with the federal minister.

“He said he’d take that under advisement,” Byrne said.

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