DFO appears to break own laws by allowing sale of commercial licences involved in alleged illegal controlling agreement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, April 9th, 2024

Fisheries and Oceans may be breaking its own regulations in Newfoundland and Labrador by allowing for the transfer of commercial fishing licenses at the centre of an active investigation into an alleged illegal controlling agreement.

“DFO may be breaking the very fishing laws it is mandated to enforce,” says Ryan Cleary, an inshore fishery activist who has brought a number of alleged controlling agreements to DFO’s attention.

The controversy surrounds La Scie-based fisherman Jimmy Lee Foss who went public earlier this year with allegations he was in a controlling agreement with Robin Quinlan of Quinlan Brothers Ltd.

Controlling agreements are illegal and occur when a corporation (often a processing company) loans money to a fisherman to purchase an enterprise, licences, or gear, and, through the agreement, controls the catch.

Foss purchased the Ocean Surfer II and suite of commercial licences in April 2022 with a $3.8-million loan from the CIBC — a deal he alleges was arranged and co-signed by Quinlan.

Foss found himself in financial trouble the very next year with the dramatic drop in crab price, and a receiver was appointed by the bank this past January — which is when he stepped forward with the allegations.

DFO launched a formal investigation, Foss was read his rights, and at least one search warrant was executed.

Foss said the investigator told him a request would be made for his commercial licenses to be frozen until the probe was complete, but DFO licensing branch forwarded him a letter late last week to say that wouldn’t be the case.

Foss fears the licence will end up back in Quinlan’s hands.

While the Atlantic Fishery Regulations allow financial institutions to seize commercial licences in the event of a bankruptcy, in Foss’ case he has confessed to being in an illegal controlling agreement.

“It doesn’t get much more cut and dried than that,” says Cleary. “Harvesters are already hesitant to complain about controlling agreements, which are rampant, and this move by DFO may discourage more people from stepping forward.”

Foss was in the news in early March when the receiver appointed by his bank gave him a deadline to either retract a declaration to DFO that he was in an illegal controlling agreement, or risk losing his home.

Contact Ryan Cleary 709 682 4862

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