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More conflicts of interest than the FFAW can shake a redfish at

The FFAW is going head-to-head with Ocean Choice International and the offshore-dragger fleet over how the redfish quota in the Gulf should be divvied up, but NL's inshore fleet should have little faith in the union that's up to its neck in conflicts of interest — including holding its own redfish quotas.

Under a moratorium since 1995, the redfish stock in the Gulf began exploding in 2013, and is predicted to support an annual fishery of up to 50,000 tonnes (one of Canada's largest fisheries) in 2-4 years.

By that time most of the redfish — which are currently the minimum harvest size of 22 cms — are expected to reach sexual maturity at about 25 cms, driving a new fishery worth tens of millions.

The redfish biomass in the Gulf is estimated at 4.5 million tonnes.

SEA-NL takes the stand that NL's inshore fleet should be principle beneficiary of all adjacent stocks — 50%+1 across the board.

Redfish, and every last stock.

The offshore sector (which Ottawa is investigating for foreign ownership/control) wants a share of up to 75% of the eventual redfish quota for its dragger fleet.

Straight-forward (if not a death sentence to so many commercial stocks in the past).

The FFAW's stand is all over the chart.

The union is fighting for a 50% share of Gulf redfish for the inshore at the same time that it represents trawlermen aboard OCI's dragger fleet, and complains about "extremely low rates of pay and benefits."

The FFAW fights for the inshore while representing workers at OCI plants (Fortune in particular), and complains about how the vast majority of the redfish currently caught by OCI draggers isn't processed here, but in "low-cost processing countries in Asia."

The FFAW fights for the inshore at the same time that the union itself has been awarded experimental redfish quotas in the Gulf — in direct conflict with its own members.


2018/19 — 800 tonnes.

2019/20 — 560 tonnes.

2020/21 — 720 tonnes.

Harvesters who fished the experimental redfish quota for the union were told where to sell the catch, with the union paid a portion of the sale.

The union has also been awarded more than $1.3 million from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund to buy/test redfish fishing gear, and hire the fishermen to catch it.

Fishermen have expressed fear the FFAW is out to control quotas, so the union can ultimately decide who fishes.


When it comes to redfish (or any other fish), inshore owner-operators cannot rely on the FFAW to fight tooth-and-nail for them when the union also represents underworked plant workers, underpaid offshore trawlermen, and holds quotas in direct conflict with its own members.

Such conflicts breed backroom deals, devour transparency, and result in no single unionized sector of the fishery being represented as it should be.

Concern was expressed earlier this year that the vast majority of the experimental redfish quota caught in the Gulf (like this redfish landed in January in Port aux Basques) is too small to be used for anything other than bait or offal.

Redfish landings in the Gulf peaked at 136,000 t in 1973. An index fishery began in 1998 at 1,000 tonnes. Since 1999, the total allowable catch (TAC) has been maintained at 2,000 tonnes. The experimental fishery began in 2018.

Redfish is known for its slow growth and long lifespan; they can live up to 75 years.

What are the odds that redfish will avoid the same fate as so many other DFO-managed groundfish stocks such as cod?

Not good

Ryan Cleary,


Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.

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