Cod fodder

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The recent pilot project announced by DFO to get fishermen to actually go catch cod on the south coast of Newfoundland got me thinking about how people view cod inside and outside the industry.

If you happen to be one of those romantic-minded knuckleheads who believes the return of the mighty cod to the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador would be the great and wonderful saviour of our fishery, please, keep reading.

Your foolish and uninformed notions are due for an adjustment.

First off, let me say quite clearly that cod, me b’ys, is less saviour and more bloody useless. Not only does cod eat the valuable species we really want to be fishing like crab and shrimp, but it’s not worth anything when we do catch it and we have no market for it.

Most fishermen would prefer cod never came back. They are a nuisance!

And now we hear that other cod fishing nations are about to swamp us all together in terms of both the available resource and market supply. It turns out they are rotten with high quality and well-marketed cod, and are ready to fully supply the global market with product.

A recent report filed by Jason Holland of SeafoodSource in London, England noted that North Sea cod stocks have grown by 250 per cent in the past five years.

“This turnaround has been achieved through a series of fishermen/scientist collaborations that have delivered better, more robust evidence upon which effective fisheries management decisions have been made in recent years,” Holland reported.

It’s noted that the fishery could receive the almighty Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification within the next three years at the current pace of recovery (Norwegian cod already has the eco-label).

The British fish gang, however, has recognized that there is a stigma attached to cod fish given the sharp declines in the resource that has been seen in many global cod fisheries over the past 20 years.

In addition to the stigma, they can see the market currently has a healthy supply of high quality cod coming from places like Norway and Iceland, and crashing the global cod/whitefish party won’t be easy.

It will mean marketing and driving the product at home and abroad.

“Getting U.K. cod back on U.K. menus is likely to require considerable consumer communication; perhaps it will warrant a national ‘Buy British Cod’ campaign as the concept of buying local is very much in the ascendance…,” Holland says in his article.

So, let’s put it all in black and white.

If cod came back to historical levels right now, we’d have no market for it (a processor recently told Navigator in an interview that he didn’t want to see any volume of cod at all this year because he has no idea what to do with it), no price on it for either fishermen or processors, no marketing behind it (Wow. Shocker.), nobody really prepared to catch it and certainly very few places in the province to process it.

At the same time, other countries are seeing more cod, increasing quotas for existing fisheries and preparing to certify and market that product heavily both domestically and globally.

Holland’s final words on the cod situation in the North Sea carry with them a message that could be easily applied to the situation starting to develop in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“…as North Sea cod stocks continue along the road to sustainability, so comes the urgency for marketers to devise a consumer-facing strategy that ensures the comeback is met with strong, widespread market demand.”

Just imagine: Supply and demand, driven by forward-minded marketing and a quality product.

Wow! Who knew? #sarcasm

Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine,

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Recent comments

  • Fred Winsor
    July 29, 2013 - 21:23

    If anyone wishes to debate the subject of ocean habitat recovery and commercial fisheries recovery in a public forum, face to face, I would be glad to participate. Sincerely Fred Winsor

  • craig
    July 29, 2013 - 10:09

    It appears that the NL representative on the Seria Club (Mr. Fred Winsor) wants you to believe that he is far more informed than Jamie Baker is. The truth is Mr. Winsor's spin is totally influenced by this Seria Club view. That view only sees the "arse of the boat" and the "odor" emanating from that view is never very appealing. I usually try to keep a considerable distance from such a gross stench but thanks to a surgical mask treated with a deodorizing spray I am here to offer my opinion. That being that I would rate Mr. Baker as being far more informed about fisheries and fisheries resources than Fredrick Winsor.

  • Fred Winsor
    July 28, 2013 - 13:01

    It appears that Jaime Baker is not very well informed on the dynamics of the ocean food web and the highly complex predator- prey relationships which occur within the largest natural system on the planet, the ocean. I would refer him to ocean food chain research completed by Daniel Pauly, Boris Worm, Callum Roberts, Sylvia Earle, and Ransom Myers. The notion that species such as crab and shrimp "managed" to or favoured the detriment of cod is a denial of power of the ocean food web to rebuild itself. The ocean shelf off Newfoundland and Labrador is, and remains, one of the most heavily overfished areas on the planet. In 2009 the World Economic Forum ranked Canada's fisheries management 125th out of 127 countries or the third worst in the world. Regarding markets for cod. There are solid markets for Newfoundland salt cod in Portugal and Brazil and most likely in the United States if any real effort was made to sell it there. As long as we have a provincial government sanctioned fish buyers cartel these markets have little opportunity to be exploited. Similarly white tablecloth restaurants in Europe and North America are interested in purchasing handline caught Newfoundland and Labrador cod. The real issue here is Newfoundland's and Canada's reluctance to implement effective ocean habitat recovery programs. Healthy ocean habitats are the foundation for a sustainable ocean food web and sustainable commercial fish stocks. How is this accomplished? Every fishing nation enjoying ocean and commercial fisheries recovery has established large marine protected areas. Thank you