Just weeks after a Federal Court of Appeal decision prevented corporate fishing companies from using the backdoor to access inshore fishing licenses, the federal government has rubber-stamped a deal negotiated by Canadian offshore fishing companies that gives foreign fleets a backdoor to Canada’s jurisdiction.
In a deal negotiated by the Atlantic Groundfish Council, a coalition of the largest corporations operating offshore trawlers, Japanese turbot quota managed through the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) is set be harvested within Canada’s 200-mile limit. Inshore fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador, who have continually had fishing rights and opportunities removed, were given no consideration to access this valuable Turbot quota that will be harvested on their doorstep.
In 1977 Canada expanded its exclusive economic zone to 200 miles in order to protect adjacent resources and keep foreign fishing companies out of Canadian waters. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians cannot accept a deal that would set a dangerous precedent and erode progress made over the past 40 years to safeguard Canadian resources.
What is most troubling about this deal is the absence of the federal government in negotiating such a transfer.
Historically, NAFO quota transfers were negotiated on a country-to-country basis. This is a much more transparent approach to managing public resources than allowing private Canadian companies to dictate terms with private foreign businesses.
While the inshore fishery remains a key economic driver of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, corporate offshore fishing trawlers provide very limited benefits and wealth to adjacent coastal communities. Ceding the responsibility of negotiating and managing Canada’s fish resources to corporations is not in the public interest and sets a dangerous precedent.
All options for harvesting quota should be pursued with adjacent inshore harvesters. The Atlantic Groundfish Council did not approach domestic fleets for consideration in this transaction.
It is unacceptable to have foreign fish harvested inside Canadian boundaries while Canadian inshore fish harvesters have to fight to maintain limited access to species like Turbot and Yellowtail.
If the federal government is truly concerned with protecting and promoting the independence of the inshore owner-operator fishery, they should reverse this decision and adopt a more equitable and transparent process for negotiating NAFO quota transfers that is not dictated by corporate interests or foreign fishing companies.