Cod is king — in China

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The king of Newfoundland and Labrador is dead, long live the codfish king.
But it will take a monumental effort to elevate our iconic cod back to its historic throne of global powerhouse.

Challenge appears on every front — including reintroducing cod into a world fish market dominated by cheap, Chinese product, and a potential foreign takeover of local plants and quotas.

While snow crab and cold water shrimp represent an important fraction of global production, not so with Newfoundland and Labrador cod stocks, which are showing signs of rebound from complete collapse in the early 1990s.

In April 2015, the provincial government was presented with a Cod Market Report by John Sackton, president of, who’s recognized as one of the top seafood market analysts and researchers in the world.

That report revealed that 2014 cod landings in Newfoundland and Labrador amounted to just over 11,000 tonnes — less than .005 per cent of total Atlantic cod that year, which totalled 1.3 million tonnes. Further, China processes 50 per cent of all global headed and gutted cod, about 850,000 tonnes.

We are but a speck in the cod-fishing universe.

Newfoundland and Labrador produces a higher quality codfish product than China, but the Chinese product — which is twice frozen and chemically processed — is much cheaper.

The Sackton report advised the province that maintaining stability of cod pricing to allow the build up of more niche markets would protect the long-term value of cod for both fishermen and processors.

“The brutal fact is that if Newfoundland cannot produce and sell a high value niche cod product, it will be very hard to avoid being sucked into the commodity market dominated by China,” stated the report’s summary.

“At that point, the ability to maintain a processing infrastructure for cod becomes threatened, because the double frozen Chinese product will undercut shore plants, making frozen at sea the more viable product.”

Enter Royal Greenland, a firm wholly owned by the government of Greenland.

It was revealed in December that the foreign company has reached an agreement to purchase majority shares in Quin-Sea Fisheries Ltd., one of the province’s largest seafood companies, operating a half dozen plants.

Quin-Sea is also said to have trust agreements with a fleet of local longliners, which could essentially hand control of fish quotas to Royal Greenland.

The deal is being considered by the province’s Fish Processing Licensing Board, with ultimate approval resting with the new Liberal government.

In terms of cod alone, would Royal Greenland be committed to the challenge of making the fishery work for our fishermen and plants, or would profit rule?

Long live the codfish king.

Ryan Cleary

St. John’s

Organizations: Royal Greenland, Quin-Sea Fisheries, Fish Processing Licensing Board

Geographic location: China, Newfoundland and Labrador, Greenland

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Recent comments

  • COD is KING. Long live the COD Fishery providing an industry for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians!
    January 14, 2016 - 09:43

    COD is KING. Long live the COD Fishery providing an industry for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians!

  • BS
    January 13, 2016 - 10:10

    Cleary has started his campaign already toward the next election. What's the matter, Cleary, can't find a job as cozy as an MP?

  • Please read or listen to PM Louis St Laurent's address of 1949 where he welcomed Newfoundland into the Canadian Confederation.
    January 13, 2016 - 10:00

    The glowing speech in the URL address below by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent's address to the Canadian Nation in 1949 is so out of step with how the province of Newfoundland and Labrador progressed economically under the Canadian Flag is very disheartening. We were told by the PM in his address we were dreamt of/coveted by Canada for 80 years. What did they do with that dream once they got control by hook or by crook of our abundantly resourced and strategically located province? I am so disgruntled with how they treated our province and that they took us for granted, took our resources for the use of the other provinces and utilized our location and air space to the nth degree while forgetting that Newfoundland and Labrador also needed to create an economy for its people to have equality with the rest of Canadians.

  • Angela
    January 13, 2016 - 09:23

    I believe what you are implying David is the fish resource that once was under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland and Labrador that I consider as being stolen is gone for ever. But David nothing is set I stone and some premier has to change direction of governance and take a stand on wrestling some control of the fishery out of the hands of Ottawa and put it back into the hands of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Premier Ball, I will put forth a serious and very important question that I wish you would give us an answer to, are you going to take your important job as Premier seriously and do your job properly on behalf of your electorate? We want full control or joint control of the our heritage resource , the fish resource, we brought into Canada in 1949 and is so valuable to growing the overall Canadia economy, but not growing the economy of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

    • david
      January 13, 2016 - 11:14

      To manage a natural resource, you need absolute, unwavering commitment. It takes consrtant effort and financial support. It has to be a basic social value.... as it is in Iceland. Newfoundland, more than any other place I've ever seen, is the land of the election. And becasue of that, it is simply not possible to achieve anything more meaningful here than whatever can be started and finished (most often very poorly) within a couple years. We just lived through this province's very best days...stunningly sad result.

    • Angela
      January 13, 2016 - 11:47

      David, maybe Premier Ball, who is completely faultless to this point with regards to how the economy of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador developed over the past 68 years in not having developed much of an economy, because of the maneuvers made by the politicians who ruled over the past 7 decades, will take your advice and attempt a different approach to providing honest and good governance and will be able to turn matters around for the good.

  • SkepticalNewfoundlander
    January 12, 2016 - 15:03

    It doesn't matter. Under the trans pacific partnership that our leaders are dragging us into we will have no more rights to the cod, or any other resource for that matter. And I'm referring to leaders of every political party. That will all take a back seat to the right of foreign companies to make a profit, as determined by an international tribunal with no concern for Newfoundland. And the closest thing to a critique or protest our politicians have been able to muster is begging for a measly 200 million in exchange for indefinite rights to a valuable renewable resource.

    • a business man
      January 13, 2016 - 06:47

      On the other hand, the Trans Pacific Partnership will ensure that Canadians nation wide have access to chinese goods, such as iPhones and iPads. If you ask Canadians nationwide if they want Canada to have stronger rights to Cod, or iPhones/iPads, I strongly suspect that the majority of Canadians will choose the iPads/iPods. Put another way, Canadians in 2015 absolutely NEED iPhones/iPads but do not NEED a Canadian fishery. Furthermore, sure, an international tribunal may not have any concern for Newfoundland, but many Canadians do not either.

    • Another businessman
      January 13, 2016 - 08:41

      I've invested heavily against the Canadian economy and I'm doing very well. I look forward to more austerity measures and cut-backs to choke the economy and put the final nail in the coffin.

    • SkepticalNewfoundlander
      January 13, 2016 - 09:03

      It's not just cod, it's oil, it's ore, it's our government's right to protect our environment, right to protect worker's safety. All future legislation is up for review by an international tribunal. In short, our sovereignty. But I wasn't aware we were suffering from a shortage of chinese goods. Someone has been hiding this from me and scribbling "Made in China" on almost everything.

    • Sandra
      January 13, 2016 - 09:40

      It's a good thing capitalists like these don't control the economy... Oh wait, they do. That may explain a lot.

  • Ryan Clearly is right!
    January 12, 2016 - 13:09

    The value of the Renewable Fish Species in the jurisdictional waters that the province of Newfoundland and Labrdor brought into Canada have an INFINITE VALUE! No value can be placed on them, the resource is A RENEWABLE ONE. Given the infinite time value and it being a renewable resource it cannot be estimated and to think that for the sake of the CETA Agreement, Ottawa would place a Value of $280 Million on the few MPRs that we were allowed to retain to provide a few jobs for our citizens is laughable. Then after promising the $280 Million for the MPRs, Ottawa turned around and reneged on the offer. Now that the offer is off the table, let us take back full control over our fish resource that is spawned on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It is a resource of infinite value and it should never have been placed into Ottawa's hands to allow the rest of the Canadian provinces to grow purposely produced surplus manufactured and agriculture goods thorough the great enabler, our Newfoundland and Labrador fish resource, and then build vibrant economies and population bases, all the while NL's economy died on the Canadian economic vine. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador needs to grow economies and a greater population base right here in our province if we are to survive. We, Newfoundanders and Labradorians simply cannot allow our natural resources to be given away in the raw state to grow economies and population bases everywhere else and NOT in our province. PLEASE THINK ABOUT IT My FELLOW NEWFOUNDLANDERS AND LABRADORIANS! Sent from my iPad

  • david
    January 12, 2016 - 12:40

    When anyone in NL starts even mentioning cod again, you know the RRRS is out of 'er. I'm impressed anyone even remembers how to spell it.

    • Angela
      January 12, 2016 - 14:03

      David, Fish is the only resource that is constant and coveted in the whole World. It is a renewable and coveted protein that is sough the whole world throughout as a food. Fish Species, the enabler, were the very reason Ottawa could allow purposely produced Manufactured and Agriculture Goods to be produced in large surplusses. The Fish Enabler assisted greatly in the building of vibrant economies in Central Canada and enabled Canada to become the G8 entity in a Group of 21 Great Global Economies. If our politicians saw to it that the Fish and all of our other great natural resources were utilized in the raw state to crate primary, secondary and tertiary processing, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador could have had the best economy in the whole World.

    • david
      January 12, 2016 - 15:38

      That speech and $2 will get you a large double double.

  • Attention: Premier Ball please get your heads together on the most important resource we have in our province right where it should be, UNDER our CONTROL!
    January 12, 2016 - 12:21

    Premier Ball your Attention at this moment should be focused Firstly and Foremost on getting the Fishery back under Newfoundland and Labrador's Control! It is the only resource that will help us through this terrible Recession we are experiencing.

  • Anon
    January 12, 2016 - 11:23

    Cleary, please go away.

  • Ken Kavanagh
    January 12, 2016 - 08:10

    I agree with Maurice on the critical importance of our constitutional right to get the maximum economic benefit of cod (and all other species) through the MPRs. MPRs gives us the tool to maximize job creation and wealth generation in the best interest of people and communities and not just for big fish processors (domestic or foreign) and their shareholders. Yet the previous PC government had decided to give them up to a CETA agreement for a paltry $280 million, though the real goal for the PCs was political gain!!!! Even the FFAW was willing to let the birthright of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans go for some surmised benefit of the Union and a select few members. Its time for all citizens of this province take back control of this natural renewable resource from the politicians, the big fish processors, and the FFAW and demand that the resource be structured and developed in the best interest of people and communities. Given all the rhetoric from institution like the IMF and many economists about inequality and all the rhetoric from our new Liberal government re economic diversification, is it not time to have our fishery ruled by people rather profit. Ken Kavanagh Bell Island

    • james
      January 12, 2016 - 10:09

      are you willing work for 3 dollars an hour

    • @james
      January 12, 2016 - 10:59

      Are YOU willing to work for $3 an hour? After all, the minimum wage was something won by the mean old unions. Also, would you be willing to work 14-18 hour days? Remember, it's those lazy union workers that fought for the 8-hour day. Scandalous !

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 12, 2016 - 06:33

    No need to ask the question Ryan. Without MPRs the rule of profit is a foregone conclusion.