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Clam concern continues for Grand Bank council as Indigenous groups come forward

Clearwater Seafoods processes Arctic surf clams at its facility in Grand Bank.
Clearwater Seafoods processes Arctic surf clams at its facility in Grand Bank. File photo

GRAND BANK, NL – Grand Bank council continues to express disappointment at the recent decision by federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc to add a fourth licence for Arctic surf clams in next year’s fishery.

Nova Scotia-based Clearwater Seafoods currently holds the other three licences and processes the clams at its facility in Grand Bank.

Stipulations on the new licence require the holder to be an Indigenous entry based in Atlantic Canada or Quebec.

LeBlanc has said 25 per cent of the existing 38,000-tonne quota will be re-allocated from Clearwater to the new entrant.

The town is concerned about the impact an additional licence with the same quota will have on employment at the plant in Grand Bank.

“Nobody can never understand how (LeBlanc) came to do this,” Mayor Rex Matthews said during council’s meeting on Monday.

The mayor said he expected there would be four or five proposals submitted by the Nov. 2 deadline.

Two groups publicly announced they had done so by the cut-off date. One involves a deal between Clearwater and 13 Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia, while the other comprises a partnership between three Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador – the Miawpukek First Nation, the Innu Nation and the Qalipu First Nation – who say they will work with the Cooke Clam Group for technical support and advice.

Clearwater’s Grand Bank plant operates year-round and has seen increased employment in recent times.

Matthews somberly recalled efforts by the town in the early 1990s to help establish the Arctic surf clam operation in Grand Bank in the wake of the cod moratorium.

To see that work potentially diminished just as they are now seeing the rewards is difficult, he said.

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