Ask any 3K, 4R or 2J fisherman and you’ll get the same response: cod is back on the grounds. As a result, there have been slight increases to quotas over the years.
Eddie’s Cove fisherman Stewart Parrill says it’s hard to find processors on the Northern Peninsula who will purchase cod. — Photo by Adam Randell/The Northern Pen
While there are more fish to catch, there’s another problem: a lack of buyers. It has Eddie’s Cove fisherman Stewart Parrill calling for change.
While there are processors on the Northern Peninsula working with cod, Parrill said fishermen can’t move their product because processors are only buying cod from their own harvesters.
“We can’t ship it to other areas of the province because it can go soft. Maybe it’s time to introduce a cod-processing licence to the Northern Peninsula where fishermen can actually sell their cod,” Parrill said.
According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, there are 58 groundfish processors in Newfoundland and Labrador. Twenty-eight of those are processing groundfish this year. There are eight processors located on the Northern Peninsula that have groundfish licences: 3 T’s Ltd, Conche Seafoods Inc., Gould’s Fisheries Ltd., H. Hopkins Ltd., Harbour Seafoods Ltd., Northern Lights Seafood Inc., St. Anthony Seafoods Ltd. Partnership and TMD Seafoods.
According to a statement issued on behalf of Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley, “At the present time prices are in decline for all types of cod due to an unprecedented increase in global supply.
“In addition, several substitutes to the cod caught by provincial harvesters, including tilapia, haddock, pollock, and pacific cod, have put a downward pressure on pricing.”
Because of this, the statement says, it has made cod prices low throughout the U.S. and Europe and makes it challenging for processors to move product.
“In light of this, distributing more groundfish processing licences is not expected to create more opportunity for provincial cod harvesters to sell their product.”
Meanwhile, Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW) president Earle McCurdy, like Parrill, agrees that fishermen should be able to sell their product.
He thinks it’s something that can be achieved through policy.
“The provincial policy, with regards to processing, needs to move with the times in light of circumstances,” he said. “If there’s an area that doesn’t have an outlet then that is something that should, through partial policy, provide a reasonable opportunity for people to sell their product.”
With a resurgence in cod stocks around Newfoundland and Labrador, and low market prices, McCurdy said the rebuilding of quota and markets is key.
“It’s no good to say we’ll keep quotas at rock bottom minimums, only to wake up one day and say we’ve got 100,000-tonne quota this year and nobody left to fish it, process it or market it,” he said. “You’ve got to rebuild the industry while rebuilding the resource.”
He said the low-level cod quotas currently in effect make it difficult to build strong markets. But he’s not suggesting going overboard with quotas either.
“We need a plan to allow for reasonable adjustments in quota accordingly, but also placing a real emphasis on marketing is critical,” he said. “We have the ability to catch it in tremendous volume, but if we can’t sell it, it is of no real value.”
The Northern Pen