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Clearwater Seafoods had the monopoly on the Arctic surf clam fishery. (Clearwater Seafoods) A company from Arichat, N.S., and Indigenous groups in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec have been awarded part of the multimillion-dollar Arctic surf clam fishery.

The federal government calls it a step toward reconciliation, but fisheries giant Clearwater Seafoods is promising legal action after losing its monopoly.

Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said a licence is being awarded to the Five Nations Clam Company, a new group comprised of First Nations from the five eastern-most provinces, which will partner with Premium Seafoods of Arichat to harvest, process and market the catch.

​"The inclusion of participants from each Atlantic province and Quebec will allow the benefits of this lucrative fishery to flow to a broad group of First Nations, and will help create good, middle-class jobs for Indigenous peoples in each Atlantic province and Quebec," the minister said in a statement. "This is a powerful step toward reconciliation." Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the new licence would ‘create good, middle-class jobs.’ (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press) The government had already said the monopoly previously held by Clearwater would end this year. In September, LeBlanc said a licence representing 25 per cent of the Arctic surf clam fishery would be introduced within the current allowable catch limits, and be awarded to a First Nations enterprise and its industry partner.

The bidding process was popular: The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said last month it was evaluating nine proposals vying for 8,924 tonnes of surf clams in 2018.

Halifax-based Clearwater pioneered the fishery located mainly off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and generated almost $92 million in revenues from the Arctic surf clam.

The company, which sells the bright red meat in Asia for sushi, is calling foul on the decision following its unsuccessful bid, which involved partnering with 13 Mi’kmaq bands in Nova Scotia.

"Clearwater will be pursuing legal options to address this failure in public policy and abuse of power by the Minister," the company said in a statement.

Clearwater says the decision will mean that middle-class jobs are lost, and some full-time jobs will become temporary seasonal work.

"We have invested hundreds of millions to develop the fishery and the market, including $156 million of investments in the last three years," the statement said.

"In this decision to expropriate investment value and undermine the good faith capital investment decisions of the private sector, the Minister has destabilized the investment climate in the Canadian fisheries and the Canadian natural resource sector."

With files from CBC’s Paul Withers and The Canadian Press

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