Editorial: Divided and conquered
Well, the provincial dominos continue to fall — and while they may not want to admit it, they’ve lost some crucial ground.
Fellow Newfoundlanders, according to the news, a large Newfoundland fish company called Quin-Sea is about to be taken over by an even larger company from Denmark. The Danish company is called Royal Greenland.
I find this disturbing. For me, it is a cause for grave concern.
With the stroke of a pen, with the signing of a bill of sale, Royal Greenland of Denmark will be the major shareholder in one of Newfoundland’s largest fish- producing companies.
In other words, major decisions about the company, the quotas the catching of shrimp and crab, the production - in fact, all major decisions - could be made by a large company in Denmark.
This may be perfectly acceptable from a business point of view, but is it the right thing to let a huge mass of fish product (up to $60 million worth annually) simply to leave our control and go overseas?
Quin-Sea relies on a very large fleet of longliners which supply their plants.
These longliners, each with their own quota of crab or shrimp, are committed to Quin-Sea through special trust agreements. What will happen to these trust agreements and the hugely important quota if Royal Greenland has other plans?
If Royal Greenland buys Quin-Sea, they will control the quota of crab and shrimp and other species. If they own the quotas, they may harvest the valuable shellfish in whatever they see fit.
What happens if this new company, Royal Greenland, decides to use their own large fleet? What happens if they decide to use their own huge boats to process their catch at sea?
What happens to our longliner fleet if the Danish company decides to use huge factory freezer vessels to harvest and process their catch at sea?
Or could they use vessels under flags of convenience or longliners to harvest various fish and shellfish in the waters off Newfoundland?
What if the company, Royal Greenland, decides that all fish species in our waters can be prepared for market more cheaply in China or Taiwan or some other far away country?
And if one company, Quin-Sea can be swallowed up, what is to stop other smaller (or bigger) fish producers from being swallowed up as well? Could it happen in future that the Newfoundland fishery is no longer owned by Newfoundlanders, but by large international companies?
I am deeply troubled by this foreign takeover, and I am thinking of more than shellfish.
I am thinking of all groundfish such as turbot, yellow tail, grey sole, halibut and cod. We all know, the scientists know, the fishermen know that cod is making a comeback. I feel that Royal Greenland is interested in our cod stocks as well. If the cod stocks on the Hamilton Banks and the Grand Banks make a successful recovery, will big foreign companies receive quotas which give them permission to take large amounts of fish from our waters, and process it at sea, or in some distant country?
Royal Greenland is a very big company, and it does $1 billion in business each year.
That is just a little less than the revenue from all the fish products caught and produced in Newfoundland each year.
The people at Royal Greenland are businesspeople first, and they did not rise to such heights by resting on their oars.
Their first concern is to make a profit and the interests of Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders may have to take a back seat if their shareholders are not happy.
There was a time that I feared a takeover from major Canadian producers. But I didn’t see a takeover of this magnitude from a foreign company.
I am equally afraid that neither the provincial government, which controls processing in the plants, or the federal government, which issues quotas to all who catch fish, I fear that neither of these government offices will be able to stand up against such powerful people who control the fishing industry.
Pope John Paul came to Newfoundland in September 1984. On Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 1984, the Pope addressed the fishermen and those who make their living from the sea. At Flatrock, near St. John’s, the Pope stated that the fishery should always remain in the hands of the fishermen. He stated that the fishery should not be controlled by large companies which are driven by the profit motive.
The Law of Adjacency of the United Nations stated that fishermen should be allowed to catch fish close to their own shores. It stated that a fisherman should be able to support himself and his family and his community.
I may live to see a rebound in the cod stocks off our shore. We may be able to help feed a hungry world if this stock is fished wisely. But I do not want to see our fish (and our shellfish) taken from us, and I fear this may happen if the Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland agreement goes ahead. This agreement, if it is allowed to proceed, may possibly even open a way for other Newfoundland companies to be bought out or taken over by foreign multi- national companies.
It is my desire, my wish, that this deal between Quin-Sea and Royal Greenland will never be signed.
Father Ed Brophy