A geography professor in the University of Guelph’s College of Social and Applied Human Sciences will appear before a House of Commons committee to discuss concerns about foreign ownership and corporate concentration of fishing licences and quota. 

Dr. Jennifer Silver, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, will provide expert testimony to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on the issue on May 11. 

Dr. Jennifer Silver
Dr. Jennifer Silver

Silver has been studying fishing licensing policy since 2017 and is one of the few academics in Canada who specializes in the topic. 

The standing committee has begun a study into growing foreign ownership of federal fishing licences and quota – the latter of which is the set, guaranteed portion of the total allowable catch of fish in a given year. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages the country’s commercial fisheries and uses a “limited-entry approach” in which the number of licences issued each year is capped. There are currently a handful of restrictions in place about who can own licences and associated quota in the Atlantic Region, but not the Pacific. 

Because large fish processing companies can own several licences, there have been concerns in recent years about corporate concentration and about “speculative” investors who see the licences and quota as investment vehicles. 

As well, questions have been raised about non-Canadian companies acquiring large numbers of licences to fish in Canadian waters. 

“Fish are really a public resource,” said Silver, “so there are questions about this increasingly privatized approach and who can invest or hold guaranteed access to that resource.” 

During her committee appearance, Silver will discuss findings from her SSHRC-funded research about licences and licensing policy on the West Coast of Canada.  

She will also discuss how Fisheries and Oceans Canada could better address ownership transparency concerns and oversee market exchanges of licences and quota.