FISH-NL accuses FFAW of conflict of interest in accepting funds from offshore oil companies/industry regulator

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Oct. 19th, 2018

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) questions the ability of the FFAW-Unifor to hold the offshore oil industry to account for its impact on the fishery when the industry has been funding the union for years.

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“The conflict of interest is blatant between the FFAW and oil companies — and the conflict even extends to the C-NLOPB, the industry regulator,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL.

The FFAW-Unifor has been receiving at least $50,000 a year from various offshore oil companies, and another $25,000 annually from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

The funds are directed to the group, One Ocean, a “liaison” organization representing the “mutual interests” of both the fishing and oil and gas industries. In turn, One Ocean funds the FFAW’s “petroleum industry liaison” position.

The petroleum liaison is the union’s point person in representing the views and concerns of inshore harvesters during the “review and execution of exploration, development and production activities.”

A spokesman for the C-NLOPB has confirmed that since 2005 the board has given $295,000 to One Ocean — funds “which has been allocated to the petroleum industry liaison position.”

Between 2005-2011, the C-NLOPB gave $20,000 a year, increasing the contribution to $25,000 a year between 2011-2017, although that funding is now on hold.

According to a spokesman for the C-NLOPB, further funding is under review “in light of new approaches being developed to participant funding programs and stakeholder engagement by governments and the Board. The C-NLOPB doesn’t provide any other funds.”

The $50,000 a year contributed by various oil companies goes towards the costs associated with “the salary, benefits, travel and administrative costs” of the FFAW’s petroleum liaison staffer.

That information was provided by the FFAW to a third party, which forwarded the information to FISH-NL upon request.

One Ocean has equal representation from both the offshore oil and fishing industries. On the fishing side, there are three board members from the FFAW-Unifor, and three board members from the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP).

Oil and gas sector board members include representatives from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Suncor Energy, Statoil, Husky Energy, ExxonMobil and Chevron.

“On one hand, the FFAW is supposed to hold the offshore oil industry’s feet to the fire, but on the other hand the union’s being paid by the industry,” said Cleary. “How does this work in the best interest of inshore harvesters? It doesn’t.”

Oil companies pay fishing boat owners thousands of dollars a day to act as marine escorts, but the FFAW — which acts as a middleman through its Fishing Guide Vessel Program — reportedly takes a cut of more than 40 per cent off the top. The FFAW has refused to confirm those figures.

One Ocean’s industry board includes the FFAW's Keith Sullivan, Dave Decker, and Nelson Bussey, who owns the fishing vessel Eastern Princess II that was hired in the spring of 2017 as an escort for the Hebron tow-out.

The FFAW only began raising concerns publicly over offshore seismic activity in early 2017 after FISH-NL accused the union of being bought and paid for.

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