Clearwater Seafood Under Fire For Fisheries Act Violations

Posted on Friday, January 11, 2019 14:46 PM

The president of the Coldwater Lobster Association is calling out Seafood giant Clearwater Seafood after it was revealed they were convicted of violating the Fisheries Act last fall.

Bernie Barry says arrogance was behind the company's actions.

Clearwater was convicted this fall of not tending at-sea lobster pots every 72 hours as required.

Clearwater owned company CS ManPar was convicted of leaving 3,800 lobster traps on the ocean floor off Southwest Nova Scotia for 17 consecutive days on one occasion and 31 days another.

Barry says it shows Clearwater doesn't care about sustainability.

"Leaving gear that long, with that amount of lobsters in it, a lot of the product was destroyed," says Barry.

He says the company didn't just ignore the law, they even kept their employees in the dark about potential charges.

"Shunning what the regulators wanted, they were warned and they kept doing it," says Barry. "I don't think the management team at Clearwater even notified the captains of what was going on."

Unlike other lobster fisheries, Clearwater can fish all year off southern Nova Scotia and has a quota of 720 tonnes.

Fishermen aren't the only ones concerned with Clearwater's fishing practices.

The Ecology Action Centre says they've done their own research into Clearwater and are concerned.

Shannon Arnold, Marine Program Senior Coordinator with EAC, says Clearwater has been flouting the rules for years and wasting tonnes of lobster as well as by-catch like Atlantic Cod.

Because Clearwater didn't bring traps to shore on a regular basis, there's no telling how many species became trapped in their lobster pots.

Arnold says not reporting by-catch numbers is illegal and not checking traps is irresponsible, even with species that can't get caught in the traps themselves.

"There's definitely an increased risk that you're just not checking to make sure there isn't something entangled, you haven't lost traps, also leatherback sea turtles have always been a concern in that fishery."

Despite this, Arnold says Clearwater has sustainability certification from the Marine Stewardship Council.

"We think that that should potentially be suspended until they can show 'ok yes, we have changed the practice, we have fixed this issue, we aren't doing this anymore and we're going to work with the government to amend it.'"

Arnold says Clearwater's practices are illegal and she hopes the Department of Fisheries and Oceans continues to take action.

Story by Gary Nickerson and Brittany Wentzell