The Baffin fishery is controlled by foreign interests

A guest editorial by Nick Illauq


While the Baffin Fisheries Coalition, as a Canadian corporation, legally holds the division 0A turbot quotas from the Government of Canada, and its fishing vessels are all legally registered in Canada, its operations are effectively managed and controlled by foreign interests, specifically Denmark (Greenland) and Iceland.

This situation is especially revealed when one reads the comments made by BFC’s foreign partners to the media in their own countries.

The exploitation of Canada’s Baffin fishery by foreign interests was described this way in 2004, in an Icelandic newspaper published in July, 2004, on pages one and two.

“Shrimp trawler Salles that has been fishing shrimp on Flemish Cap using Estonian fishing days [and] has been registered into Canada and will in the future fish from the generous turbot and shrimp quota in Canada. Company Bjarnar owns 55 per cent of the trawler and Royal Greenland owns 45 per cent… Steingrimur and Finnur in co-operation with Royal Greenland have achieved what many have tried with different results. Few ships, some owned by Icelanders, have gotten short-term licences to fish turbot that the native inhabitants in North-East Canada control, but no one has before been able to get their ship registered in Canada and gotten control of quotas for long-term.”

Bjarnar is an Icelandic company owned by Steingrimur Erlingsson and Finnur Hardarsson. Royal Greenland is owned by the Danish government on behalf of Greenland. The trawler Salles had been owned by Royal Greenland, but is now Canadianized as the Inuksuk I and is owned and managed by Nataaqnaq Fisheries, which is owned jointly by Royal Greenland and Bjarnar.

“Royal Greenland acquired considerable part of the shares in Bjarnar. Finnur and I hold the majority of the company and handle completely its daily management,” Erlingsson said in a September, 2005 article in the Iceland trade magazine Fiskifrettir.

BFC’s Icelandic partners have begun to consider themselves “Canadian,” as they explain in the same article:

“…when Nataaqnaq Fisheries was established there arose some misunderstanding in the Canadian media that Canadian jurisdictional waters had been opened up to foreigners. It was not taken into consideration that these were foreigners who had established a Canadian company to cooperate with the locals as had been customary for many years. It took considerable energy in the beginning to correct that misunderstanding. The colleagues stated that this had come as a complete surprise to them as they were probably more ‘Canadian’ than most others in the same position.”

This situation works well for Royal Greenland, as their former trawlers continue to operate in Davis Strait, using their ports in Greenland as “home ports.”

A February 2006 article in the IntraFish newsletter reports that “Royal Greenland recently announced plans to add two vessels to its operations in Canada to target turbot and other species.”

Royal Greenland also formerly owned the trawler Saputi, recently acquired by Qikiqtaaluk Corp., which has a 51 per cent share in the vessel, with the remaining shares held by Nataaqnaq Fisheries Inc., who will manage vessel operations.

Nataaqnaq Fisheries is the same company that owns the factory freezer trawler the Inuksuk 1, which the BFC is currently leasing to own. Nataaqnaq Fisheries is owned by Royal Greenland and Bjarnar, and Royal Greenland holds a mortgage on Saputi.

The Intrafish article stated that “as its operations in eastern Canada are close to Greenland, the company can utilize processing facilities in Greenland without affecting the quality of the fish produced.”

Under the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization agreement, 50 per cent of the total turbot stock in northern Davis Strait is allocated to Greenland, a substantial portion of which is caught by Royal Greenland vessels.

It is ironic that Royal Greenland’s “partnership” with BFC enables ex-Royal Greenland vessels to now catch almost 100 per cent of all the turbot in northern Davis Strait.

In the Intrafish article, Royal Greenland stated that: “They are the world’s largest supplier of turbot and, with this latest program, they hope to further stabilize their position in the market.”

On its web site, Royal Greenland states that it is the world’s largest supplier of cold-water shrimp. In partnership with BFC, it is now the beneficiary of the BFC plan to swap some of its substantial northern turbot quotas for southern shrimp quotas to facilitate joint-ventures and thereby enable ex-Royal Greenland trawlers to operate year-round on both turbot and shrimp quota.

With its deep financial pockets (as a Danish government corporation) Royal Greenland should, in a few years, be the dominant player in the Canadian offshore shrimp fishery.

We should not stand by and allow our Canadian fishery to be taken over by foreigners masquerading as Canadians. Our Canadian government should be helping aboriginal people in coastal communities develop their own sustainable fisheries economy on their own terms, and deny assistance to the Danes and Icelanders in their effort to control Canada’s northern fishery.

Aboriginal people who live in the Baffin coastal communities are being denied direct access to turbot quota adjacent to their communities unless they participate in foreign-dominated deals through the BFC.

Certain communities are proposing that the quota be caught in an environmentally sustainable manner using Canadian owned fixed gear fishing vessels rather than the destructive bottom trawling of the re-flagged Danish owned trawlers, which will likely lead to the eventual destruction of the northern turbot fishery, as has already happened in the south.

It’s about time that our Canadian government supported a truly Canadian fishery — owned and operated 100 per cent by real Canadians.

Nick Illauq
Clyde River

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