Nova Scotia

Clearwater gives up piece of offshore lobster monopoly to N.S. First Nation for $25M

Halifax-based Clearwater Seafoods is selling two of its offshore Nova Scotia lobster licences to the Membertou First Nation for $25 million.

'Today's news, I mean, it's a big deal for us,' says Membertou Chief Terry Paul

Halifax-based Clearwater Seafoods is selling two of its offshore Nova Scotia lobster licences to the Membertou First Nation. (CBC)

Halifax-based Clearwater Seafoods is selling two of its offshore Nova Scotia lobster licences to the Membertou First Nation for $25 million.

It's a deal that is both a major business development and Indigenous reconciliation event in the lucrative Atlantic Canadian lobster fishery.

The agreement gives the Cape Breton band a quarter of Clearwater's coveted monopoly to harvest 720 tonnes of lobster in Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit. It extends from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans restricts Clearwater to the offshore south of Halifax.

"We are very excited at Membertou," said Chief Terry Paul. "We feel that we're making a historic investment which significantly increases our presence and participation in the Atlantic Canadian commercial fishery.

"Today's news, I mean, it's a big deal for us. It's an opportunity for the Mi'kmaw to participate in the offshore fishery in a new and meaningful way, and it allows for the fishermen to have access to employment in the offshore."

$25M is market price for licences

The deal is expected to close later this fall and will include an operating agreement with employment and procurement commitments.

Christine Penney, Clearwater vice-president of sustainability, said Membertou is purchasing the licenses at market value in a commercial transaction.

"We think this is a model for expanding Indigenous access in the fishery," Penney said. "This is a willing-buyer, willing-seller model, and it's expanding our relationship with a leading First Nation in Nova Scotia."

Where Membertou is getting the money

Clearwater currently holds all eight Canadian offshore licences that are fished with a single vessel, the Randell Dominaux, out of Shelburne, N.S.

It is the only year-round lobster fishery in Canada and the only one with a quota.

Paul said Membertou's two licences will continue to be fished by the Clearwater vessel.

Membertou has gone to the First Nations Finance Authority for the money for the purchase.

Not the first deal between the sides

This is not the first deal between North America's largest shellfish producer and Paul, who heads up the fisheries file for Nova Scotia First Nations.

The company has operating agreements with the band in two other Clearwater species — snow crab and arctic surf clams.

Membertou is one of 14 Indigenous communities, including all in Nova Scotia, that have agreements to share benefits and revenue with the company on the surf clams.

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About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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