After years of public protests alleging skullduggery over the transfer of a crab allocation, New Waterford fisherman Paul Fraser has finally had his day in court and won.
In a written decision released this week, Supreme Court Justice John Bodurtha ruled that Fraser is entitled to receive $264,294.98, plus interest, in compensation for the eight years his quota was used by another company along with $15,000 in punitive damages.
“I am convinced after reviewing all the documentation from DFO and hearing testimony of the witnesses, that Fraser’s snow crab license was transferred to the defendant and fished for the defendant’s benefit since 2010,” concluded Bodurtha.
“The defendant intentionally refused to pay Fraser for the use of his snow crab allocation from 2011 to 2018. The defendant refused to transfer Fraser’s snow crab allocation to another corporation,” he said.
“The defendant deprived Fraser of the use of his snow crab allocation and the potential profits from fishing the allocation. The defendant fished Fraser’s snow crab quota and retained the profits for itself or through its shareholders.”
As Bodurtha noted in the opening paragraph of his decision, the case was an unfortunate story of how Paul Fraser and his snow crab allocation became a bargaining chip in a dispute between two former business partners.
Fraser, who was represented by Sydney lawyer Duncan MacEachern, sued 3102602 Nova Scotia Limited who was represented by company president Roderick Jeffrie who represented himself in court. He did not call any witnesses.
Jeffrie and Anthony Hendricksen were equal shareholders in another company called Three Port Fisheries that purchased lobster and crab.
In 2010, the relationship between Jeffrie and Hendricksen had deteriorated to the point that a lawsuit was filed and both went their separate ways.
Also in 2010, Fraser’s quota was being fished by another company, for five years, who advised him they would no longer be selling to Three Port.
As Bodurtha explained in his decision, when it comes to the fishery, the corporation is the license holder while the individuals hold shares in the corporation. Individual shareholders are prohibited from going out and fishing on their own because the license is held by the corporation.
“Individual shareholders have no interest in the license. An individual quota holder owns a percentage amount of the overall quota.”
Fraser approached Hendricksen concerning transferring his snow crab quota over to the Big Bras d’Or group of which Hendricksen was a shareholder and the group sold to Three Port.
Hendricksen was unable to make the transfer and instead moved the quota to 3102602 Nova Scotia Ltd., of which Jeffrie was president and a shareholder.
Bodurtha said the documents for the transfer of Fraser’s allocation to the defendant (Jeffrie) were deficient and possibly tampered with but ultimately accepted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In 2010, Fraser was compensated for his allocation but received nothing in subsequent years although Jeffrie continued to fish the quota.
Jeffrie denied the allocation belonged to Fraser and based such an assertion on erroneous documentation from DFO. When confronted with corrected materials from DFO showing it was Fraser’s allocation, Jeffrie explained he would not make the transfer until after the dispute between he and Hendrickson was resolved.
“Even after the dispute was resolved, the defendant continued to retain and fish Fraser’s allocation for its benefit,” said the judge.
During the intervening years, Fraser staged numerous protests claiming he had been ripped off by all concerned from Three Port to DFO. One such event had Fraser perched for nearly seven hours on the rooftop of the DFO location in Westmount to protest his case. He also rented signs and posted messages about people owing him money and not paying. Fraser also included this newspaper in his protests alleging the paper was attempting to cover up what had happened to him.
“I am convinced after reviewing all the documentation from DFO and hearing testimony of the witnesses, that Fraser’s snow crab license was transferred to the defendant and fished for the defendant’s benefit since 2010,” said Bodurtha.
As for Jeffrie, Bodurtha said he certainly knew about Fraser’s allocation as early as 2011 but made no attempt to inquire with Fraser’s former buying company nor take any steps to rectify the situation.
Bodurtha also ordered Fraser’s allocation be removed from Jeffrie’s company and given to a company of Fraser’s choice.