FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sept. 25th, 2017
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is questioning why the FFAW-Unifor is charging inshore harvesters $1,000 for a bluefin tuna tag when fishermen can’t get much more than that from the sale of a fish.
"This seems to be yet another FFAW-Unifor money grab,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “The real question here is why the union is charging its members anything at all? The FFAW is supposed to be in the business of helping harvesters, not profiting from them.”
The bluefin tuna fishery is in full swing on the St. Pierre Bank off Newfoundland’s south coast, and the FFAW-Unifor distributed a notice to harvesters in recent days informing them that it had been “approved” for 12 tags “as part of the Mexican transfer of quota for 2017.”
The union wrote that it must purchase the quota “to pay for DFO science projects. The cost of each tag will be $1,000 non-refundable, and non transferable.”
But harvesters say they can’t get much more than $1,000 for a 500-pound tuna, which sells for $2-$2.50 a pound.
“Once again harvesters are getting fleased by their own union,” said Cleary. “Since when do inshore harvesters have to pay for DFO science projects? The union and DFO have some explaining to do.”
According to the union notice, the $1,000 is paid to the Fisheries Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board (FSSSB), an FFAW-controlled entity.
The FSSSB also oversees the Atlantic Halibut Sustainability Plan, under which halibut tags are sold for $200 to harvesters on the Great Northern Peninsula (fishing zone 4R).
Meantime, harvesters from the Maritimes and Quebec who fish in the same waters do not have to pay for halibut tags.
FISH-NL estimates the FFAW-Unifor will be fed by almost $5 million more this year from harvester fees and government sources than from membership dues, proving the union has lost its way.
In 2017, FISH-NL estimates the FFAW-Unifor will collect $8.1 million in fees from inshore harvesters for services such as dockside monitoring and grading, as well as from various government contracts/grants.
That compares to annual membership dues — at the high end — of $2.9 million.