Five Nations Clam Company no longer receiving Canadian surf clam license

Irving Hamilton
August 13, 2018

The federal government says it has cancelled plans to issue a controversial clam fishing licence to a First Nations company with ties to the Liberal party and several sitting Liberal MPs - including the former fisheries minister.

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced Friday it is still looking to issue a new Arctic surf clam fishery license as part of a decision to introduce indigenous participation in the Arctic Surf Clam fishery.

Up until the announcement, Clearwater Seafoods held the only three licences for Arctic surf clams and processed the species at its facility in Grand Bank.

But it was soon revealed that Five Nations didn't have all five partners confirmed by the time it won the licence, even though the government required that the winning bidder be a partnership of multiple Indigenous communities.

The federal government has cancelled a controversial Arctic surf clam licence that was meant to help Indigenous communities gain a foothold in a lucrative fishery, but instead led to criticism from First Nations and an investigation by the federal ethics watchdog. "A new Arctic Surf Clam licence will not be issued in 2018".

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the remaining 25 per cent of the 2018 Total Allowable Catch may be made available after discussions with the current license holder, Clearwater Seafoods.

Conservative fisheries critic Todd Doherty was very pleased with the decision, describing the original process as seriously flawed.

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"This is great news for the plant workers in Grand Bank and the people on the Burin Peninsula", he said in a release.

"The approach we have announced will allow existing interested parties to update their submissions or reconfigure their partnership structure, while allowing any new potential participants to signal their interest", said spokesperson Laura Gareau in an email.

In its original proposal, Five Nations admitted it was not officially registered in Nova Scotia until December 13, 2017, records show - well past the November 22 deadline to submit proposals. The new First Nations quota - some 9,600 tonnes a year - was a prize worth tens of millions of dollars.

The records filed in court showed Five Nations was only 25 per cent Indigenous owned with the remainder in the hands of Premium Seafoods.

The controversy culminated in an investigation into then-Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc by the federal ethics commissioner into a possible conflict of interest. The cousin of LeBlanc's wife, Gilles Thériault, was also involved with Five Nations.

LeBlanc was shuffled out of the Fisheries portfolio late last month and now serves as intergovernmental affairs minister.

In an interview with the Telegram on July 19, newly minted Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the decision on the award of the surf clam quota was to "move forward" with the award.

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