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  • Writer's picturerryancleary

Trudeau/O'Regan out to kill inshore fishery by favouring big-money, big-boat sector (and DFO NL is their lackie)

It's a job not to see it that way when Ottawa has sided with the big-money/big-boat sector on three major files as of late — controlling agreements, fishery violations, and northern cod. Those decisions were likely political, and must gut what's left of morale at DFO White Hills. But unrest is rising in the inshore, a line in the sand is being cemented, and last spring's protests on Confederation Hill will hopefully pale it comparison to what's coming.

Winterton, Trinity Bay.

I see this as the inshore fishery's last stand.

Examples of political favouritism towards the corporate, offshore sector are growing.


In recent days DFO has dropped three separate investigations into alleged controlling agreements that give processing companies control over inshore boats and quotas — including one case that included a harvester’s confession — with no charges laid.

DFO has yet to say why the cases were dropped (the arrogance is offensive), but indications are DFO's Enforcement branch dropped the investigations after its Licensing division released the commercial fishing licences — knowingly breaking Atlantic Fishery regulations.

Why did DFO Licensing release the licences?

Forget an inquiry, a RMCP investigation may be warranted into obstruction of justice under both the Criminal Code of Canada, and the federal Fisheries Act.


DFO amended Ocean Choice International’s licence conditions in October 2022 after three of the company’s offshore draggers were tagged for fishing violations outside Canada’s 200-mile limit — including alleged directed fishing on moratoria stocks. 

The amendments ended the investigations, but DFO’s decision to change the rules of a commercial fishery already underway raised concerns about politics or favouritism seeping into enforcement decisions.

The license conditions of an inshore harvester have never been changed once a charge had been laid.


MP Seamus O’Regan might as well have said "Let them eat cake" last week when he told the FFAW they "can’t have their cake and eat it too’ with regards to lifting the northern cod moratorium.

O’Regan said once a stock’s status rises to cautious from critical "certain obligations" kick in.

Only there is no quota threshold for the moratorium to be lifted.

The 2024 quota could have increased to 18,000 tonnes under a continued stewardship fishery (limited to handlines, longlines, gillnets and codpots), without lifting the 32-year moratorium, and opening the door to offshore draggers that killed the commercial fishery in the first place.

Breaking that promise shredded what's left of DFO credibility in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Their word is worthless.


Trudeau, as Prime Minister, and O'Regan, as NL's senior minister in the federal cabinet, will answer in this province for the undeniable show of favouritism towards the big-money, big-boat sector.

O'Regan spoke about "obligations" with northern cod, presumably to international dragger fleets outside 200 miles.

What about the obligation to the tens of thousands of inshore fishing families in Newfoundland and Labrador that have vanished in the 32 years since the commercial fishery shut down?

What did they sacrifice for?

Unleashing the draggers on a stock that's barely on its knees, and breaking a written commitment is horrible enough, but defending that decision to Canadians and showing such blatant favouritism towards the offshore is a sign of politicians whose time is done.

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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