Nova Scotia

'Landmark agreement' reached on lucrative surf clam fishery

The deal is between 14 First Nations in N.S. and N.L., and Cleawater Seafoods Inc. The 50-year agreement benefits all parties involved, according to the company and the co-chair of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs.

Deal is between 14 First Nations in N.S. and N.L., and Clearwater Seafoods Inc.

Clearwater previously had a monopoly on the Arctic surf clam fishery. (Robert Short/CBC)

An agreement on the Arctic surf clam fishery has been reached between 14 First Nations in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and Clearwater Seafoods Inc.

A joint news release issued Monday night said all parties will benefit from the new 50-year agreement.

"We have reached what I call a landmark agreement with Clearwater that proactively distributes millions of dollars in revenue sharing and capacity building benefits from the offshore clam fishery to all of our 14 First Nations in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland," said Chief Terrance Paul of Membertou First Nation and co-chair of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs.

Paul told CBC News the agreement benefits all Mi'kmaw First Nations situated next to the Arctic surf clam resource.

Arctic surf clam is a bright red, tongue-shaped seafood that's exported to Asia for sushi and the lucrative export is worth tens of millions of dollars. Revenues topped $100 million in 2017.

The Arctic surf clam is one of the main products produced at the Grand Bank plant. (Robert Short/CBC)

In a conference call with investors on Tuesday, Clearwater CEO Ian Smith said the deal will change the face of the company for the better.

"Nothing like this has been done in the industry before at this level of collaboration between a traditional commercial player and First Nations partners," he said.

"It builds on our existing relationships and we are incredibly proud to be partnering with First Nations in Atlantic Canada to take this forward."

Paul and Smith said the agreement protects existing jobs in the Arctic surf clam fishery in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Benefits retroactive to January

The voluntary agreement will be effective immediately and all benefits to the participating First Nations are retroactive to January 2019.

According to Smith and Paul, the agreement will provide millions of dollars in benefits to First Nations through annual revenue sharing, training, leadership development as well as procurement of goods and services from Indigenous suppliers.

In September 2018, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it would look for an Indigenous entity to hold a licence for the 2020 fishery.

Clearwater has had a monopoly for nearly 20 years on the Arctic surf clam fishery.

The federal department tried to give a quarter of the current quota to a First Nations entity in 2018, but cancelled those plans in July without an explanation.