Above photo: NL-GIDC independent chair, Jim Baird
Since its inception in April 2016, the Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council (NL-GIDC) has quickly become a major player in formulating a strategy for re-establishing a commercial cod fishery in the province.
The organization, made up of processors, harvesters and government officials, recently unveiled its latest strategy at its annual general meeting in St. John’s.
“The way forward for our province’s groundfish fishery is based on sustainability — sustainability of the resource, sustainability for the people and communities of our province and economic sustainability through the sale of a world-class product” said NL-GIDC independent chair, Jim Baird.
At the meeting, the group outlined that the overall strategic objectives include to catch and land a consistent supply of top quality raw material over an eight to 10-month season and to produce prime quality fresh fish, salt fish and once-frozen groundfish products for sale in the United States, United Kingdom and Western Europe.
The GIDC has proven quite influential over the last two years as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) basically accepted the group’s groundfish 2016 and 2017 management proposals for Northern cod in NAFO divisions 2J3KL.
Baird told the packed industry gathering that the organization has identified nine priority issues to address that will arise with the forthcoming redevelopment of the N.L. groundfish industry:
- Extended seasons: Develop and implement harvesting plans and management strategies that will result in the provision of a consistent supply of raw material over an eight to 10 month season.
- Fish handling practices: Develop and adopt province-wide fish handling protocols and procedures for fish harvesters in all N.L. cod fisheries. Develop and deliver education and training materials to equip harvesters with the knowledge, skills and capacity required to meet the new quality standards for cod.
- Gear diversification: Continue to encourage and provide funding for the movement toward the use of a more diversified suite of gear technologies, such as automated longline systems, cod pots and modified cod traps.
- Fish stowage systems (boxing at sea): Adopt the onboard stowage infrastructure (insulated boxes or containment systems) required to maintain the temperature of the raw material during transport. Assess available fish stowage systems to determine if they can be adapted to the structural constraints associated with the current fleet of vessels.
- Strategic landing ports: Establish a process to identify a select number of strategically located groundfish landing ports based on current and historical landings patterns, the need for regional balance across geographic regions, anticipated landing activity in the future.
- Landing port infrastructure: Establish priorities and timelines to address deficiencies in strategic landing ports; and equip these ports with the infrastructure (e.g. ice-making capacity, vessel off-loading systems, etc.) required to meet the prime product objective.
- Onshore handling and transport: Develop and adopt best handling protocols, quality control procedures and training programs across for all stages of the chain of custody — buying, transport and processing.
- Processing plant modernization: Modernize the province’s groundfish processing capacity via investments in the retooling of plants with state of the art groundfish processing equipment and technologies.
- Product branding: Examine the potential for the development of a generic product branding strategy for all N.L. groundfish products with a focus on attributes such as resource sustainability, wild catch fisheries, pristine waters, prime quality product and community sustainability.
As part of the GIDC, the harvesting sector is represented by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW/Unifor).
Union president Keith Sullivan said “by working together, we can prepare our industry for a new groundfish fishery that is sustainable, economically viable and internationally competitive, and that will act as an economic driver for coastal communities across Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The processing sector is currently made up of 11 N.L.-based companies, including Allen’s Fisheries Ltd., Avalon Ocean Products lnc., Barry Group lnc., Beothic Fish Processors Ltd., Codroy Seafoods lnc., Deep Atlantic Sea Products, Fogo lsland Co-operative Society Ltd., Golden Shell Fisheries Ltd., Happy Adventure Sea Products Ltd., Harbour Seafoods Ltd. and the Labrador Fisherman’s Union Shrimp Co. Ltd.
Bill Barry, CEO of Barry Group Inc., said, “The return of groundfish will undoubtedly present many challenges and opportunities. Investments in the re-tooling of onshore processing plants and the production of prime-quality, high value product will play an important role in the future success of the industry. By working together with other stakeholders, we can attract new investment to the sector and extract maximum value for our product in world markets.”
GIDC ex-officio members include Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) N.L. Department of Fisheries and Land Resources (DFLR), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Whitecap lnternational Seafood Exporters.
The council has said it is also in full support of initiatives being undertaken by industry, such as the 2J3KL Fisheries Improvement Project (FlP) underway by FFAW-Unifor and WWF Canada, as well as work to address issues of quality and how the highest quality product can be landed and handled throughout the value chain.