Thank you, Chair, and good afternoon to the members of the committee.
My name is Adam Burns and I'm the director general of fisheries resource management at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. As you noted, I'm joined by Heather McCready, the director general of conservation and protection, as well as David Whorley, the director of licensing operations.
We're here today in support of this committee’s study of offshore fisheries, including the processes related to licensing and quota transfers. We appreciate the opportunity to be here.
I would like to briefly touch on some of issues that may be related to this study, and I hope that we will be able to provide better and further details for you over the course of today’s discussion.
The offshore fishery in eastern Canada comprises those vessels greater than 100 feet in length. There are presently 97 offshore licences in eastern Canada and the Arctic, which account for about 37% of total landings in the area.
On the East Coast, the Department remains committed to Canadian ownership, and to the review of fishing company purchases to ensure the ownership requirement of being at least 51 per cent Canadian-owned to be eligible to receive the fishing licences is met.
Under the Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada, if foreign interests acquire over 49 per cent of the common shares of a Canadian-owned corporation which holds fishing licences, the licences will not be reissued to that corporation upon the expiry of those licences.
In addition, regulations provide that where there is a change in the controlling interest of a corporation that holds a fishing licence, DFO must be advised of the change within 15 days afterward.
The ownership review requires that the licence-holder and all parent companies that hold a controlling interest in that licence-holder be majority-owned by Canadians. The intent here is to prevent foreign interests from establishing effective control over licence-holders in the offshore.
While on the east coast offshore licences are issued to companies, which can designate various vessels to fish the licence, on the west coast, a vessel-based licensing regime is used. In that case, when there is a change of vessel ownership, DFO requires a notice of change of ownership documentation from Transport Canada to indicate the vessel owner or owners on record and Canadian vessel registration. A similar 15-day time limit for this notification is set out in regulation.
With respect to offshore licence transfers, licences are not, strictly speaking, transferable. That is, licences are not generally considered as property, and so cannot be legally sold or bequeathed. However, the Minister does have discretion to reissue a fishing licence held by one licence holder to another harvester, upon request from the licence holder and agreement from the potential recipient.
In those cases, officials conduct a review for Canadian ownership of the transferring party, as described. As well, the minister takes into account any land claims obligations that could be relevant to the request of transfer. Finally, the minister has broad discretion to consider the broader public interest in making any decisions related to a request for a licence transfer.
With respect to quota transfers, there are two varieties: temporary and permanent. In the case of temporary quota transfers, those being in-season transfers from one harvester to another, officials ensure that the transferring party and transferee have mutually agreed on the amount to be transferred, that all licence fees have been paid to the Crown, and that the transferring party has the quota available to support the transaction. This type of transfer terminates at the end of the fishing season, at which point quotas are allocated anew in light of available catch and the fishery's sharing scheme.
With respect to requests for the permanent transfer of quota attached to offshore licences, officials conduct a review for Canadian ownership that mirrors the process for licence transfers, and ensures, among other things, that all fees and fines have been paid. Finally, if the proposed permanent transfer would alter the agreed-to quota-sharing arrangement for a given fishery, the department consults with industry on the proposed transaction.
With respect to commercial versus communal commercial licences, these two forms of licence exist under different regulations, the former under the Atlantic fishery regulations and the latter under the aboriginal communal fishing licences regulations.
Technically speaking, there is no transfer from one type of licence to another. Rather, a harvester would have to notify the department of the licence relinquishment, and then the department would have to receive a separate request for a commercial communal licence.
The request to establish a new ACFLR licence provokes a review as enabled by section 8 of the fishery (general) regulations. Communal commercial licences can only be issued to “aboriginal organizations”, as described in the regulation, rather than to an individual or a company, as in the case of commercial licences in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
I hope the committee finds these brief overview comments useful. We look forward to the committee's questions.