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Science fishery or FFAW quota, DFO refusal to release sentinel fishery data raises conflict concerns

NEWS RELEASE TO THE MEDIA — Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022


Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) accuses Fisheries and Oceans of treating the FFAW-run, science-based sentinel cod fisheries like a commercial quota in refusing to release catch data — raises serious conflict of interest concerns.

“DFO says on one hand the sentinel fisheries are for science, but on the other hand refuses to release details under federal Treasury Board guidelines for the release of commercial catch information,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director.

“DFO seems to be saying the FFAW has a cod quota, which raises serious questions of conflict of interest between the union and inshore owner-operators.”

The sentinel or test cod fisheries in waters around the province have been run by the FFAW-Unifor under contract to Ottawa since the mid-1990s as a means for fishermen to keep an eye on adjacent cod stocks in the absence of commercial fisheries.

But DFO has refused to release the amount of cod caught in this year’s sentinel fisheries under a federal policy known as the the “rule of 5”, which states there must be a minimum of five enterprise owners and five buyers involved for catch information to be released.

While dozens of inshore enterprises take part in the sentinel cod fisheries every year, DFO says there are fewer than five buyers for sentinel-caught cod in 2022, the first year the department has refused to release the sentinel catch.

In 2021, 70 tonnes of cod were caught in the sentinel fisheries, although the tonnage reached as high as 263 tonnes in 2015.

Sentinel fisheries contracts were worth more than $1.1 million in 2017 to the FFAW, which also keeps the money from the sale of the cod.

Conflict of interest concerns have been raised about where the union sells the cod, the price per pound, and how the price is negotiated considering the FFAW’s role as bargaining agent for the inshore fleet, unionized plant workers where cod is processed, and workers aboard offshore trawlers that fish cod off the south coast.


Ryan Cleary, Executive Director, SEA-NL Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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