Petition Filed to Halt Foreign Ownership of Canada Fishing Licenses

A union that represents Canadian commercial fishing industry workers has filed a petition with the country’s House of Commons to end foreign ownership and interest in Canada’s professional fishing licenses and quotas.

The British Columbia-based United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union said Feb. 22 that it had launched the parliamentary petition, which requests an immediate stop to any further foreign ownership or beneficial interest in Canadian licenses and quotas.

The petition supports a recommendation made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans’ 2019 Report on Sharing Risks and Benefits, which states in part that “based on the principle that fish in Canadian waters are a resource for Canadians (i.e. common property), no future sales of fishing quota and/or licenses be to non-Canadian beneficial owners based on the consideration of issues of legal authority, and international agreement/trade impacts.”

Currently, Canada has no limitations on foreign ownership of commercial fishing licenses and quotas, something that the fishermen’s union has said causes economic losses to domestic fish processing and processing jobs in Canada and also displaces Canadian owner-operator fish harvesters.

“Foreign investment in Canadian commercial fisheries is in direct competition with DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and First Nations’ (Indigenous peoples’) pursuit of acquisition of fishing licenses and quotas thereby compounding challenges related to meeting reconciliation objectives,” the petition reads in part.

“Together, we can ensure that the benefits of commercial fisheries flow to our coastal communities and protect small-scale fish harvesters,” the union said in a statement.

The petition, which was open for signatures until March 22, has already reached the minimum number of 500 signatures needed before it can be considered by parliament, but as of press time, no legislative hearing on the matter has been scheduled.