GRAND BANK, NL – The Town of Grand Bank has taken to the internet to raise awareness of its dispute with the federal government over Arctic surf clams.
The town recently hired a public relations firm based in Ottawa and has launched an online campaign in hopes of raising support for what it’s calling the ‘Grand Bank plan’.
In February, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced a new license for Arctic surf clams would be issued to the Five Nations Clam Company, a new entity is made up of First Nations from the four Atlantic provinces along with Quebec.
Prior to that, Nova Scotia-based Clearwater Seafoods Ltd. held the only licenses for the species, which the company processes primarily at its facility in Grand Bank.
The decision was also made to give the new entrant 25 per cent of the existing total allowable catch (TAC).
Indigenous reconciliation has been cited by the federal government as the reason for the decision. In Grand Bank, it has been met with outrage.
According to information on the campaign’s website, www.grandbankplan.ca, it’s not clear “if proper departmental priorities and planning processes were followed, or if the decisions were within the federal government’s formal principles and processes set out to guide federal government advancing fair and just reconciliation.”
The three points of the Grand Bank plan outlined on the website call for a meeting with LeBlanc, an agreement to work together and review the federal government’s decision, and a commitment to “proper planning, stable management and sustainable growth moving forward” of the Arctic surf clam fishery.
The website features a form that people can fill out. By doing so and clicking submit, a message is sent directly to LeBlanc, Prime Minister Justice Trudeau, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, as well as all the Liberal MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador.
The online campaign was briefly discussed during Grand Bank council’s meeting on Monday, April 15.
After the meeting Mayor Rex Matthews told the Southern Gazette the campaign will cost in the range of $13,000 to $15,000, which is town is footing entirely on its own.
“We felt we had to do something. We got to stand up, too. We can’t always have someone else speaking for us. We got to speak ourselves,” Matthews said.
While he said the town hasn’t given up on LeBlanc reversing his decision, Matthews said council also realizes the probability of him doing so seems unlikely.
“But, you know, it might serve us well in the future,” he said of the lobbying effort.