Dennis ‘Danny’ Farias (1932-2023): trade unionist and fishermen’s leader
An outspoken trade unionist and uncompromising advocate for fishermen as well as for the marine environment has been mourned by the island’s fishing community.
Danny Farias ran repeatedly for Parliament under the Progressive Labour Party in Devonshire South.
Unfazed at the constituency as a stronghold of the ruling United Bermuda Party, Mr Farias was equally unbothered by his losses at the polls.
His first venture came in 1993 while he served as head of the Bermuda Industrial Union fishermen's division
A prominent supporter of the PLP and the labour movement, he ran a major fishing business with his two sons.
Mr Farias was proud of his Azorean heritage, telling The Royal Gazette in 2006 that his experience of discrimination had given him insight – and that his backing of the BIU and PLP put a target on him.
“When you are a threat to power and they think that they are going to lose it all, then they rise up,” he said.
The Progressive Labour Party offered condolences to the family of stalwart PLP member Danny Farias, who ran for elected office twice under the party banner in Devonshire South.
Mr Farias campaigned there alongside Richard Lynch in 1993, in the by-election of May 1997, and in 1998 alongside Quinton Butterfield.
A party statement read: “He was a fearless advocate for Bermuda fishermen and our fisheries. Mr Farias was always passionate about injustice anywhere he saw it in the community.
“With great courage he chose to fly the PLP banner in the UBP era and their stronghold at that time, especially as a White Bermudian representing Labour.
“In the years subsequent, he regularly has offered counsel and support to our Government. We are ever thankful for his contributions to our community.
“The Progressive Labour Party extends our thoughts and prayers to Danny Farias's family and friends at this difficult time and hope that they are comforted by these words.”
Mr Farias made another bid for Devonshire South in the May 1997 by-election after the resignation of David Saul, the former premier.
It pitted him against Michael Dunkley for the UBP and Charles Jeffers of the National Liberal Party.
Mr Farias said he had become fired up over politics through his passion for the marine environment, adding: “I've always been concerned about that, not just fish but open spaces and pollution.”
He traced it to his 1970s campaign for tougher regulations to protect certain species, resulting in a 1971 protection order offering safe havens for fin fish in the southwest and east-northeast.
Mr Farias organised the Bermuda Commercial Fishermen's Association and lobbied Parliament to help get the new rules through.
Mr Farias, who lived in Devonshire with his wife Diana, was blunt in his views and was often depicted as a rebel in the island’s press.
Incensed by the island’s 1990 prohibition of fish pots, Mr Farias defied the ban, earning a fine in Magistrates’ Court that he fought – without success – all the way to the Court of Appeal, which turned down his bid to take the matter to the Privy Council in the UK.
Undeterred, Mr Farias branded the ban on trap fishing “a heinous political decision”.
His stance on the issue even boiled into a dispute with Jaws author Peter Benchley, whose less successful 1991 novel Beast, about a giant squid terrorising Bermuda, took a swipe at fish pot advocates.
Ms Farias responded: “A man of his intellect and calibre should know better – although you don't have to be a smart dude to write a book.”
Mr Farias maintained that fishermen were little to blame when fish stocks declined in the 1980s.
He pointed the finger at pollution from onshore, particularly the dumping of sewerage – telling the Gazette in 1992: “What I see in the future is very serious – we have to tackle the problem.”
Mr Farias had many causes over the years: he condemned intrusions into Bermuda’s waters by large foreign fishing vessels, and sounded the alarm over the use of blocks of incinerator ash at the airport, calling it “environmental destruction”.
He bitterly opposed the South Shore sewage dumping through the offshore pipeline in Paget known as the Seabright outfall.
But Mr Farias would give his backing to the Government on issues he saw as sensible, such as requiring fishermen to carry emergency position indicating radio beacons.
“I sanction it,” he said. “Government has to take a broad look at it and make sure they get the right boats on the compulsory side of it.”
He retired from fishing in the late 1990s. But in 1998, he threw his hat in the political ring a third time for Devonshire South, when the PLP finally attained the Government.
Mr Farias was not part of the victory – but shrugged off the loss.
“I have really enjoyed this experience,” he said. “I've been in my glory today, greeting all the voters. We've had nice cool weather and a splash of rain.
“It's exhilarating – like being on the ocean, standing to my gunwale, trying to catch a fish.”
• Dennis “Danny“ Pavao Farias, a fisherman and trade unionist, was born on December 3, 1932. He died in January 2023, aged 90.