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A Cod Management Plan that Works for the Fishing Economy of this Province

November 24, 2016

On October 11, 2016 Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council (NL-GIDC) Chair Jim Baird delivered a presentation on the 2016 stewardship northern cod fishery and the proposal that was submitted to DFO by the GIDC. You can view the presentation here.

Cod Quality Grading Specifications can be found here.

Cod Quality Grading Form can be found here.

DFO’s cod management plan, which is based upon suggestions from FFAW members, is an important first step in rebuilding the northern cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. The plan recognizes the current challenges that the fishery faces in this province, while also facilitating a new focus on quality. Lastly, the plan allows for the inshore cod fishery to rebuild, find markets, and establish expertise at and a reputation for producing top quality fish.

The northern cod fishery is quickly re-emerging as an essential pillar of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery. The federal government has confirmed that the inshore fleet will have exclusive access to the first 115,000mt of the northern cod quota. This is a crucial economic commitment. The inshore sector has a responsibility to maximize the value of the northern cod fishery. The global cod fishery has changed since 1992 and there are new, more valuable opportunities that did not exist before the moratorium. We cannot resurrect the past; we must build a new future.

The new cod management plan is the product of years of discussions between FFAW members, the processing sector, and DFO. The promise of a new cod fishery has been clear for several years. How to structure and grow the new cod fishery has been discussed with hundreds of harvesters at dozens of meetings. Like the cod fishery, the NL fishery has also changed since 1992 and the new cod fishery needs to be structured to meet the needs of harvesters.

This is a challenging task and we are at the early stages. We have one overriding objective – to maximize the value of the cod fishery for the people and communities of NL. How we achieve that goal may evolve over time. The new cod management plan is just a beginning towards achieving our objective.

Building a Better Cod Fishery from the New Management Plan

We are trying to build a new cod fishing economy. This takes time and effort. It also requires trying new approaches that may need to be refined as we move forward. We have no intention of rebuilding the cod fishery of the past and that means we need to do things differently.

The new management plan facilitates this new approach:

  • It provides harvesters with more cod to harvest: for the fishery to rebuild we need access to the resource; the management plan meets that need. Every harvester has the opportunity to catch significantly more cod. This will start to bring the cod fishery to the forefront of a harvester’s livelihood.
  • It promotes a longer fishing season: we have to move beyond a 3 week fishery, which is not economically sustainable. To compete in the market we must focus on quality, which requires different approaches to the harvesting season.
  • It provides processers with more product over a longer period of time, which is essential for building strong markets.
  • The management plan is an incremental approach that allows the sector time to figure out what works and what may need to be changed. The plan is only for one year and will be reassessed and improved upon.
  • The management plan allows for the orderly growth of the cod fishing economy: The NL inshore harvester will receive exclusive access to the first 115,000mt of northern cod quota. Achieving this level quota is several years away, but in the meantime the management plan sets up a framework that will allow us to maximize value and attract the investment needed to properly harvest the huge amount of cod and other groundfish that will be available over the next decade.

The Value of Producing Quality Cod

  • A new NL cod fishery has to be focused on providing a quality cod if it is to provide the necessary value to harvesters and processers. Pre-moratorium, the focus of the NL fishery was quantity, and we produced predominantly a low-value block product used in fish sticks and other low value products.
  • In 2015, the NL cod fishery still produced some block, which achieved an average export price of $1.93 to $2.33 per pound. In comparison, the fresh and once-frozen product produced an average export price between $5.57 and $7.64 per pound. Clearly, quality fresh and once-frozen fish is a much more valuable product and harvesters will benefit from providing that product.

Achieving a High Quality Cod Product

  • Harvester incentives: for the past three years, the price of cod to harvesters has been based on a quality grading system – the best quality fish receives the best price. As a result, a harvester has the highest incentive to fish in a manner that will produce the highest value for him/her.
  • Develop best practices: the FFAW has an ongoing Cod Quality Project whereby harvesters work to develop the best approaches for catching, cleaning, and transporting a high quality cod. The results of the project will be used to help harvesters across the province to improve quality of their catch.
  • Match harvesting capacity to processing capacity: producing a high quality cod product is very time sensitive. Naturally, a quality fish that arrives at the plant in a timely manner and is graded and processed quickly will likely see little loss in quality; this is not be the case for a quality fish that takes days to be transported, graded, and processed. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to not create a glut at the processing plant. The current management plan addressed this concern:
    • Weekly limits of 2,000 pounds from August 15 to September 4.
    • After September 4, the weekly limits increase by 50% to 3,000 pounds per week.
  • Penalize processers that undermine the pursuit of quality: the new collective agreement on cod sets out many harvester protections against processers and buyers that undermine the efforts of harvesters to land a quality product. In particular:
    • There are now procedures for the handling and transporting of cod on and from the wharf and penalties for not complying.
    • There are more meaningful penalties to enforce the timeliness of grading.
    • There is a more detailed Raw Material Traceability Form and penalties for processers who do not use the form.