In an update to members late Friday on the tentative snow crab deal, the FFAW highlighted how the 2023 price won’t drop below $2.20/lb, but the union didn’t breathe a word about enterprise owners having to pay into a new fund if they go over on their trip limits.
Instead, those details were contained in a text exchange between Derrick Bragg, minister responsible for fisheries, and Bay Bulls fisherman Jason Sullivan (and drew immediate comparisons on social media to the “shrimp slush fund,” and the millions of dollars that have never been fully accounted for).
Bragg wrote in the text exchange that if a snow crab harvester “goes over” (presumably their trip limit) the money would be put into a trust fund “for education of industry people.”
He said the account would be overseen by the Association of Seafood Producers, the FFAW, and “likely” the Marine Institute.
Bragg then warned, “There will be no deal unless trip limits are in place. Whatever that may look like.”
Jason Sullivan’s response: “No one is stealing my crab and putting it in a slush fund. You came along a long time after the shrimp slush fund where the FFAW took millions upon millions of dollars from us. Never happening again.”
Then, the FFAW posted this note to its Facebook page around noon Saturday:
Most inshore fishermen have heard of the FFAW’s “shrimp slush fund” since its creation in the early 2000s, but few harvesters have any idea where the tens of millions of dollars have gone.
In 2015 alone, shrimp harvesters in fishing zone 3L estimated they contributed $1.8 million to the fund.
If a harvester goes over their “cap” or trip limit, the dollar value of the extra shrimp is paid by the processor directly into the fund.
For example, if a harvester exceeds his cap of 90,000 pounds by 5% or 4,500 pounds, the dollar value of that extra shrimp (4,500/lbs X $1.08/lb = $4,860) goes into the FFAW shrimp fund.
It’s been said that when the fund was created the money was to go to charities such as the Janeway. (In 2003, for example, $5,000 was given to the Badger relief fund.)
While a portion of the money may go to charity or scholarships, fish harvesters are suspicious of where the bulk of the money is spent — considering FFAW transparency is non-existent.
In FFAW literature surrounding its battle to eliminate the LIFO (Last-in, first-out) management policy in the northern shrimp fishery, it stated: “The union was able to support this effort financially because of the shrimp fund, which helps pay for the extensive advocacy work required in the shrimp fishery.”
The FFAW has never provided a detailed accounting of where exactly money from the shrimp fund is spent. Some harvesters have said the funds are directed into the FFAW’s executive gold-plated pension plan.
MERITS OF TENTATIVE CRAB DEAL
Owner-operators in the inshore fleet could not expect the FFAW to deliver them the best possible price on snow crab (or any species) when the union is conflicted in also representing plant workers.
The United States is the largest market for Canadian snow crab, and there was news Friday that imports for the first three months of 2023 were up dramatically.
Executive Director, SEA-NL
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit sea-nl.ca to join.