Grand Bank mayor says noth­ing has changed

Rex Matthews feels de­lay in is­su­ing Arc­tic surf clam li­cence noth­ing to cel­e­brate

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial - BY COLIN FAR­RELL With files from David Ma­her colin.far­[email protected]­erngazette.ca

Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews says there’s noth­ing to cel­e­brate re­gard­ing the re­cent an­nounce­ment by the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) to can­cel the li­cence is­sued to the Five Na­tions Clam Com­pany for Arc­tic surf clam.

“Not one thing to cel­e­brate, we haven’t won any­thing,” Matthews said. “I’m cer­tainly not im­pressed by the de­ci­sion; there has been no change of heart by DFO or the fed­eral min­is­ter.”

In Fe­bru­ary of this year for­mer fed­eral fish­eries min­is­ter Do­minic Le­Blanc an­nounced the depart­ment would is­sue a fourth li­cence for surf clams to the com­pany com­prised of First Na­tions peo­ple from Que­bec, Nova Sco­tia, New­found­land and Labrador, Prince Ed­ward Is­land and New Brunswick.

The li­cence would have given the new holder ac­cess to 25 per cent of the ex­ist­ing to­tal al­low­able catch (TAC).

Up un­til the is­su­ing of the fourth li­cence, Clear­wa­ter Seafood Ltd. held the only other li­cences for Arc­tic surf clam, with pro­cess­ing of the prod­uct done at the com­pany’s plant in Grand Bank.

Now, the plan is for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to hire a yet-tobe-named third party com­pany to pre­pare for an­other ex­pres­sion on in­ter­est for the li­cense next year. The plan is to have an­other li­cence awarded to an­other com­pany by 2020.

Un­cer­tainty

Matthews said the an­nounce­ment to de­lay is­su­ing the fourth li­cence has not helped the town, but rather it has cre­ated a feel­ing of un­cer­tainty for peo­ple who rely on the clams for their liveli­hood.

“I don’t buy into this crap,” he said. “I don’t buy into it at all, and I think if the gov­ern­ment — if they re­ally want to re­ally do some­thing — re­verse it, can­cel it and don’t bring it up any­more un­til the biomass of Arc­tic surf clam can sup­port a sus­tain­able fishery and in­crease the quota.”

Matthews added that if DFO want to look at is­su­ing a li­cence, “Then that’s fair game, I’m OK with that, but I’m not OK with what they’re do­ing to­day.

“They’re just drag­ging it out and our com­mu­nity, our peo­ple and the 450 peo­ple that work in the (plant) got this hang­ing over their heads for two more sea­sons.”

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Tues­day, Aug. 14 re­gard­ing the de­ci­sion to can­cel the li­cence, newly ap­pointed fed­eral Fish­eries Min­is­ter Jonathan Wilkin­son said he could not pro­vide in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the de­ci­sion.

“We had dis­cus­sions with the pro­po­nent. We went back and forth with the pro­po­nent on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions and made the de­ci­sion that we would be ter­mi­nat­ing the con­tract,” he ex­plained.

Other than adding that the de­ci­sion was made in early July, the min­is­ter would not go into fur­ther de­tail re­gard­ing the de­ci­sion.

“For rea­sons of com­mer­cial con­fi­den­tial­ity, I can’t go into the specifics, but the de­ci­sion was taken a few weeks ago,” he said.

Wilkin­son also ex­plained that DFO are in talks with Clear­wa­ter Seafood Ltd. about the re­main­ing quota.

“So, we have said — and we’re cer­tainly in di­a­logue with Clear­wa­ter — that un­til there is a new en­trant in place that the TAC will likely go back to Clear­wa­ter,” he said. “There’s some is­sues that we need to dis­cuss with them and we’re go­ing to be work­ing through that in the next few weeks.”

Matthews said if the in­tent of DFO is to al­low Clear­wa­ter to har­vest the ad­di­tional clams, it is some­thing that needs to be re­solved in a timely man­ner.

“If the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is go­ing to make that de­ci­sion it’s time to make that de­ci­sion,” he said. “We have re­ally about three months left this year — that’s all we have for fish­ing.

“If you’re go­ing to give it back to Clear­wa­ter, then let’s get it done now and not pro­cras­ti­nate and wait on this again.”

FILE PHOTO

Rex Matthews

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