Clearwater Seafoods selling 2 offshore lobster licences to Membertou First Nation for $25M

A lobster is shown in a trap in Port Mouton, N.S., in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Inka Milewski

Clearwater Seafoods has announced that it plans to sell two of its licences to the Membertou First Nation, effectively giving up its monopoly on an offshore lobster fishery off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The Membertou First Nation will purchase two offshore lobster fishery licences at a cost of $25 million.

Previously, Clearwater Seafoods owned all eight licences issued for Canada’s offshore lobster fishery known as Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 41.

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LFA 41 begins roughly 50 miles off the shore of Nova Scotia and ends at Canada’s 200-mile limit.

It’s the only lobster fishing area in Canada with a quota — 720 tonnes or 1.6 million pounds of lobster — and a yearlong season.

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The quota accounts for roughly 15 per cent of Clearwater’s lobster sales. The company has consolidated its operations in LFA 41 to a single vessel, the trawler Randell Dominaux.

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The use of the trawler is set to continue as Clearwater and Membertou prepare to work together as “equal partners to build value for our local communities,” said Christine Penney, a spokesperson for the Seafood giant.

The sale of the two licences is the culmination of a project meant to bring a Mi’kmaq participant into the offshore lobster fishery, the company said.

Membertou is pleased to make this historic strategic investment in the sustainable and well-managed offshore lobster fishery,” Chief Terry Paul said in a statement.

“It further strengthens our relationship with Clearwater, leverages their expertise in offshore fisheries, and builds value for our community and provides additional employment and growth opportunities for our people.”

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Penney said the $25-million transaction will see the Membertou First Nation and Clearwater share best practices, harvest the quota using the Randel Dominaux and leverage access to the global market.

“The operating agreement includes revenue sharing, Indigenous employment and procurement commitments,” she said.

Ian Smith, CEO of Clearwater Seafoods, said in a press release that the transaction “serves as a model of cooperation, with the commercial fishing industry and First Nations working together as equal partners.”

Penney said the primary driver of the $25-million deal was building the company’s commercial relationship with the Membertou First Nation.

The sale of the two licences must still be approved by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

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