'The FFAW stands between harvesters and hope'

The clearest, most obvious example of the FFAW’s inherent conflict of interest in representing plant workers, offshore trawlermen and inshore harvesters was a notice posted last week inside the Arnold’s Cove plant. 

A major cut is expected to the south coast cod quota (fishing zone 3Ps), and the FFAW takes the (correct) stand that offshore trawlers should be banned, impacting the Arnold’s Cove operation where offshore cod is processed from November to March’s end.

How the FFAW manages to juggle the defence of inshore harvesters (who the union represents), against losses to offshore trawlermen (who the union represents), and plant workers (who the union represents) is beyond me.

But there are other conflicts of interest that aren’t so obvious — namely, out-of-province buyers.

Part of the reason why the south coast cod quota wasn’t taken last year (7,000 tonnes caught, vs 13,000 tonne quota) was the insulting price offered to harvesters — 60 cents a pound, average.

The price was so low that many harvesters didn’t bother to untie their boats, and with crab and shrimp on the decline, every cent counts from every fish caught.

The FFAW can’t champion outside buyers, which harvesters want, because plant workers (or processors) don’t. The conflicts of interest don’t end there.

The conflict that has bothered me most is this: how, on one hand, can the FFAW hold Ottawa to account for fisheries management, when, on the other hand, it receives millions of dollars from the feds. 

It can’t. The FFAW has attempted to address the conflict with the feds by slowly taking over management responsibility for itself.

Last spring, the FFAW proposed a secret, 5-cent-a-pound levy on lobster to cover the union’s “management” of the fishery. (The proposal was turned down.)

To quote the union: “The bulk of the work once conducted by DFO is now being done by the FFAW.

As I said in September at the start of the “salt and pepper” revolution: “The FFAW is a conflict of interest wrapped in a mystery inside a huge puzzle with pieces missing, the missing pieces being fish.”

The FFAW stands between harvesters and hope.