FFAW's hand out to Ottawa for 2m pounds of fish; union shouldn't hold quota in conflict with members
The FFAW has submitted three proposals to the federal government for 1.8 million lbs (800 tonnes) of experimental redfish quota, 220,000 lbs (100 tonnes) of American Plaice (flounder) for a test fishery, and 26,000 pounds (12 tonnes) of halibut for a survey and tagging program. All fish would be caught in waters off Labrador and/or Newfoundland's east coast.
Since 2018, Fisheries and Oceans has granted the FFAW 4.6 million lbs (2,080 tonnes) of experimental redfish quota in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The union has also been given more than $1.3 million from the Atlantic Fisheries to buy/test redfish fishing gear, and hire the fishermen to catch it.
SEA-NL takes the stand that a union/association representing inshore harvesters should not hold quota in conflict with its membership.
Inshore harvesters/owner-operators have expressed concern that the FFAW — in being awarded 2,080 tonnes of experimental redfish quota in the Gulf since 2018 — will eventually get the power to pick and choose who fishes, just as the union already tells fishermen where to sell their catch from test fisheries/surveys.
But the conflicts of interest extend beyond the membership in that the union also has a monopoly over dockside monitoring services to the inshore fleet as outlined in the union's collective agreement with fish processors.
The dockside monitoring company, Fish Harvesters' Resource Centres, is run by the FFAW-Unifor.
In being assigned its own quota, the union effectively monitors its own catches.
Also called into question is the FFAW's ability to hold Ottawa to account for fisheries management — which has been disastrous, based on the health of most commercial stocks — when the union feeds from the federal government trough.
DFO released the FFAW's three proposals several days after a virtual meeting of the 2+3KLMNO groundfish (non cod) advisory committee meeting on Dec. 7th.
BREAKDOWN OF FFAW REQUESTS
2+3KL EXPERIMENTAL REDFISH PROPOSAL: 1.8 million lbs (800 tonnes).
Find FFAW proposal at end of SEA-NL blog post.
This stock has been under a moratorium for directed fishing since 1997.
The FFAW's request would be similar to the union's redfish proposals in the Gulf, which has seen the union granted 2,020 tonnes of experimental quota since 2018.
In that case the union was also permitted a halibut bycatch of up to 10%, which comes off the overall halibut quota available to inshore fishermen, who were only permitted 1,700 pounds of halibut each this year in the directed fishery.
AMERICAN PLAICE INSHORE DISTRIBUTION AND RELATIVE ABUNDANCE: 220,000 LBS/100 TONNES
Under the FFAW proposal, 10-15 fixed-gear harvesters would be selected from St. Mary's Bay to White Bay to take part in the test fishery.
DFO's species quota reports do not breakdown where American plaice landings are from in the NL region — "presumably to protect the privacy of the few offshore vessels who land the bulk of the plaice bycatch — but annual landings are recorded at 608t, 738t, 504t and 513t in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively."
Less than 10% of those landings were from fixed gear fisheries.
2J3KL HALIBUT LONGLINE SURVEY AND TAGGING PROGRAM:
26,000 LBS/12 TONNES
The FFAW — which already runs halibut survey and ragging programs in the Gulf/south coast Newfoundland — is proposing a pilot halibut and tagging program for 2022, with 40 stations.
In the past, inshore harvesters in western Newfoundland have complained about being forced to sign an agreement to sell their fish to a buyer of the FFAW’s choosing before they could take part in the halibut survey in the Gulf.
Questions were raised when the FFAW was awarded an initial 800-tonne experimental redfish quota in the Gulf when the department's own criteria clearly state only "existing Gulf groundfish mobile gear licence holders and Gulf based Indigenous groups with a ground fish licence" are eligible.
While the FFAW doesn't hold a mobile gear licence, DFO has said the union met the eligibility criteria for the experimental redfish fishery on the basis that their members include Gulf-based harvesters (4R, 3Pn) with mobile gear groundfish licences.
DFO has also confirmed that while dockside monitoring is mandatory in the experimental redfish fishery, the department has no problem with the FFAW — as a quota holder — hiring its own company (the Fish Harvesters’ Resource Centre) to do the dockside monitoring because it’s one of three companies in the province “designated” to do so.
See FFAW proposals below.
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