Clearwater says surf clam monopoly saves jobs, stays mum on ethics ruling

Halifax-based Clearwater Seafoods says the restoration of its surf clam monopoly will save jobs in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Halifax-based company won't comment on ethics investigation into Dominic LeBlanc's handling of quota licence

The Anne Risley, owned by Clearwater, has a 450-tonne hold for Arctic surf clam. (Robert Short/CBC)

Restoring Clearwater Seafoods' monopoly on the lucrative Arctic surf clam fishery will save jobs at its operations in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, the Halifax-based company said Wednesday.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced Tuesday it was returning the remaining 25 per cent of the surf clam quota to Clearwater for 2018 and 2019.

Clearwater, which already controlled 75 per cent of the quota, said 450 people work in its Atlantic surf clam operations.

"This is great news for our employees," said Christine Penney, vice-president sustainability and public affairs at Clearwater.

"So there will be no adjustments required in the operations and workforce given that we've got access to this 25 per cent." 

No comment on LeBlanc rebuke

A licence to fish the remaining 25 per cent — about 9,000 tonnes — had previously been granted to Five Nations Clam Company, an Indigenous entity based in New Brunswick, before it was abruptly cancelled in July.

That licence was recently the subject of a four-month federal ethics investigation. Commissioner Mario Dion ruled former fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc broke conflict of interest rules when he awarded the licence to Five Nations because the company is linked to his wife's cousin.

Penney declined to comment on the ruling Wednesday.

Clearwater will compete again

Clearwater had previously warned that awarding 25 per cent of the quota to another licence holder would mean job cuts, with workers at its processing plant in Grand Bank, N.L., the likeliest to be hit.

DFO now says it will award the quota to an Indigenous entity in 2020.

Penney said Clearwater will again team up with First Nations in a bid to win the quota back permanently.

"We strongly feel given our experience in this unique fishery and given the assets we have deployed, we would be best positioned to provide employment and tangible benefits to Indigenous partners."

About the Author

Paul Withers

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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.