'This process was wrong': N.L. fisheries minister says criticism of surf clams decision is building

Provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne says there were so many problems with the way a lucrative surf clam contract was awarded that the decision should be reversed.

Delay in announcing Five Nations' partners shows process was flawed, says Gerry Byrne

Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne says the Arctic surf clams decision should be reversed. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

Provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne says there were so many problems with the way a lucrative surf clam contract was awarded that the decision should be reversed.

Byrne said it's not just the government and Indigenous communities and nations in this province taking a stand.

"Indigenous nations and communities from all over Atlantic Canada and Quebec seem to be taking a much stronger, much more vocal and negative reaction to not just the decision, but how the decision was taken," the MHA for Corner Brook, said on Thursday.

This is far from reconciliation. It has pitted First Nation against First Nation, and community against community.- Gerry Byrne

The federal government received seven proposals for the Arctic surf clam quota, and Byrne pointed out the winning bidder — Five Nations Clam Corporation — didn't have its partners listed when it won the contract.

"This was supposed to be [a request for proposals] which was transparent and accountable, which was supposed to produce a very specific result, that of reconciliation," he said.

"This is far from reconciliation. It has pitted First Nation against First Nation, and community against community."

Packages of surf clam are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., in this 2004 file photo. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock issued a news release late Thursday night identifying the group's partners, including the Southern Inuit of NunatuKavut of Newfoundland and Labrador, more than two weeks after the winning bid was announced.

Byrne spoke before the groups were identified, but said the fact it had been taking so long suggested Five Clams had trouble lining up partners for a contract worth about $100 million.

'This process was wrong'

"It really just shows this process was wrong," he said.

Byrne said he wants to meet with federal Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc on the issue.

"The licence has not yet been awarded, to the best of my knowledge," he said.

"The minister, during his press scrum, said that until all legal requirements are met by the company to whom the enterprise allocation, the surf clams, would be awarded to, until that's met, no licence will be awarded.

"So at this point in time, we are still very much able, and we have the capacity to lobby and to influence, and our position remains today — as it was yesterday, and will remain tomorrow until the decision is reversed — the decision must be reversed," said Byrne. 

Arctic surf clams are largely sold in Asia for sushi.