August 14, 2018 4:58 pm

New fisheries minister explains reversal on controversial surf clam licence

File - Fishing boats loaded with lobster traps head from Eastern Passage, N.S. on Tuesday, November 27, 2012.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

The new federal fisheries minister has made his first visit to Newfoundland and Labrador since the cancellation of a controversial surf clam fishing licence given to a First Nations company with ties to the Liberal party.

Ottawa said Friday the process to issue a fourth licence to harvest arctic surf clam off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia had been cancelled in early July, and that it won’t be issued this year at all.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq to vie for licence in lucrative Arctic surf clam fishery

The multimillion-dollar licence awarded to the Five Nations Clam Co. was supposed to offer 25 per cent of the catch to local Indigenous communities.

But it came under scrutiny after court documents suggested the company did not meet the federal government’s initial eligibility requirements, and that the company had close ties to the federal Liberal party – including former fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc.

READ MORE: Despite outcry federal fisheries minister refuses to reverse decision on surf clam licence

In Conception Bay South, N.L., on Tuesday, new minister Jonathan Wilkinson said LeBlanc made the decision to cancel before he was shuffled out of the portfolio last month, and said it came after a series of discussion between the Five Nations Clam Co. and the department.

The deal would have ended a 19-year monopoly on the Arctic clam fishery held by Clearwater Seafoods.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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