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  • Writer's picturerryancleary

‘Don’t be afraid to come forward’, inshore fisherman regains control of licences from major fish processor

A 3Ps fisherman who lost control of his multi-million dollar fishing enterprise several years ago to one of the province’s largest processing companies has regained control of his licences (including lucrative snow crab quota) almost a year after coming forward.

Just inside The Narrows, the entrance to St. John's harbour.

I’m withholding the man’s identity because a DFO investigation remains ongoing, with the likelihood of a civil suit. 

That said, the fisherman and his family want to share immediate advice with any other licensed harvester and their families who may have lost control of their enterprise or licences.

“Don’t be afraid to come forward. Don’t be afraid to go to DFO because they’re after the top dogs, not the fishermen. Be patient, and the truth will come out.”

The 3Ps fisherman lost control of his enterprise and licenses without a dime to show for it (or a clue as to how it happened) to a processor that also won’t be named. 

After several years he and his family finally approached me at SEA-NL, and a written appeal for intervention was taken directly to the federal Minister in Ottawa.

An investigation was launched, and over a period of months Fisheries Officers untangled the licences, which were shown to be in the fisherman’s control all along.  

From where I stand, the case is yet another example of the stranglehold that seafood processors have over the inshore fleet.

By law, a licensed harvester must have control of their fishing licences and catch. 

Illegal controlling agreements occur when a corporation (usually a processing company) loans money to a fisherman to purchase an enterprise, licences, or gear, and, through the agreement, controls the catch.

Controlling agreements undermine the independence of inshore enterprises, and prevent them from getting a fair price for their fish.

DFO is actively investigating a number of cases of alleged controlling agreements, the most public being that of La Scie fisherman Jimmy Lee Foss.

Jimmy Lee Foss was told in Janaury to either drop a DFO complaint of a controlling agreement or risk losing his home. DFO later appeared to break its own Atlantic Fisheries Regulations by releasing the licences at the centre of the controversy to the receiver/bank.

Foss confessed to DFO in January to being in an alleged controlling agreement with Quinlan Brothers involving a $3.8-million enterprise/licences he purchased in 2022.

Controlling agreements became illegal under Canadian law in 2021, although a single charge has yet to be laid.

In December, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans released a report on corporate concentration and foreign ownership into fishing licences and quota — recommending the creation of an independent fishery financing agency.

The agency would have "sufficient risk tolerance to finance and mentor new entrants to acquire licences and quota and to refinance existing licence holders to become independent of illegal trust and supply agreements with fish processors."

The Trudeau government rejected the proposal.

Ryan cleary is a former journalist, Member of Parliament, union leader, and long-time inshore fisheries advocate who’s currently helping to organize a co-operative ( for inshore enterprise owners. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own. Contact him at or call/text 709 682 4862. 

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