FISH-NL repeats call for FFAW-Unifor to disclose money paid by oil industry; potential union conflict ‘taints’ seismic research

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, March 15th, 2019

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is repeating its call for the FFAW-Unifor to disclose the amount of money the union receives from oil and gas companies.

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“The question of conflict of interest taints everything the FFAW touches — including DFO’s recent research into the impact of seismic blasting on snow crab — for as long as the union refuses to open its books,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL.

A 2018 DFO paper — Effects of 2D seismic on the snow crab fishery — concluded seismic activity does not have a “significant” impact on commercially caught snow crab. The paper used data the FFAW-Unifor helped collect, a contribution acknowledged in the report.

At the same time, the FFAW has refused to reveal details of its financial arrangements with the offshore oil and gas industry to address questions of conflict of interest in also representing inshore fish harvesters. The FFAW hires and trains so-called Fisheries Liaison Officers (FLOs) aboard seismic vessels. The union is also compensated to hire fishing boats as “guide vessels” in the oil industry.

In 2006, the FFAW and oil companies formed the organization One Ocean to represent the “mutual interests” of both industries. The oil industry helps fund One Ocean, as did the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, until last year.

FISH-NL first raised questions of conflict between the FFAW and oil industry in June, 2017 when the amount of seismic blasting on the Grand Banks was described as “super-sized.”

Seismic activity uses high energy, low frequency sound waves that can penetrate thousands of metres below the sea floor, and while the impact on fish stocks and the marine environment is debatable, for years the FFAW rarely whispered a public word of concern.

DFO held a technical briefing in late February on the state of the snow crab, and when officials were asked about the impact of seismic testing on the resource they referred to the 2018 paper as proof there is none.

The study did not test for the impact of seismic on crab migration, small or female crab, or measure the impact of 3D seismic activity, which, in 2017, was described as one of the largest in the world.

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