BFC breakaways ink deal with Labrador Inuit co-op

Baffin fish to be processed at Inuit-owned plant in Labrador


The Nattivak Hunters and Trappers Association of Qikiqtarjuaq signed a deal with the Inuit-owned Torngat Fish Producers Co-operative Society of Makkovik, Labrador this week to catch 320 tonnes of turbot in southern Davis Strait and deliver it to the Torngat plant for processing.

“This is the first agreement of its kind in the North, as it is between two Inuit organizations that are made up exclusively of Inuit fishermen and plant workers who presently are out of work and who will be sharing quota that has been allocated to each community for a common purpose,” the Nattivak HTO said in a press release this week.

Under the deal, Nattivak will catch 160 tonnes of turbot in southern Davis Strait, also known as division 0B, through a quota allocation held by Torngat Fish Producers.

Nattivak will deliver an additional 160 tonnes of turbot to Makkovik, to be harvested from Nattivak’s longstanding 330-tonne turbot allocation in division 0B.

The Nattivak group left the Baffin Fisheries Coalition last year, then formed their own fishing company, Masiliit, in partnership with a Newfoundland firm called Terra Nova.

Until last year, the Nattivak group’s 330-tonne 0B quota was fished for them by the Nova Scotia seafood giant, Clearwater Seafoods. Under those agreements, Clearwater caught their fish and paid royalties to Nattivak.

But through the Masiliit deal, Nattivak says they will eventually acquire ownership of a groundfish licence that will allow them to fish anywhere in Canadian waters, and a controlling interest in the Genny and Doug, a 100-foot fishing vessel that uses a hook-and-line, or “fixed gear” method of fishing.

The Nattivak group says this method is better for the environment than trawling, the technique recently used by most of the BFC’s vessels.

“That [trawling] not only takes the food chain away from the fish, it also pollutes, destroys, and does a lot of damage. The noise affects other sea creatures that live around the area. If there’s been trawling in an area, there are no seals or other animals in that area. I’m sure it also does a lot of environmental damage to the bottom of the ocean,” Koalie Kooneeliusie, Nattivak’s chairman, told the House of Commons fisheries committee on March 22.

Jerry Ward, the CEO of the BFC, told the committee, however, that the hook-and-line method results in the harvesting of higher numbers of large, egg-bearing female fish.

“It’s a balancing act. We want a balanced fishery,” Ward said, saying that the BFC’s goal is to use both methods.

This week’s signing event was to have been held at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Senator Willie Adams of Nunavut, a strong backer of Nattivak’s attempts to build a community-based fishery in Qikiqtarjuaq, helped out with the ceremony.

That was to have been followed by a similar event on Thursday at the harbour in St. John’s, Nlfd, where the Genny and Doug is anchored right now.

A spokesman for Nattivak said this week that at least two groups of four Qikiqtarjuaq fishermen will get jobs on the Genny and Doug this season.

The Torngat Fish Producers group is a co-op, formed in the 1980s by Inuit fishermen and plant workers in six northern Labrador communities.

Its plant in Makkovik, which processes snow crab and turbot, employs up to 125 people.

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