On the Waterfront – April 2022

Spanish Vessel Sinking Claims 21 Lives

The 50-metre Spanish fishing vessel Villa de Pitanxo sank February 15 in rough seas about 460 kilometres east of Newfoundland, leaving nine dead and 12 missing at sea.

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Three crewmen, who were found in a life raft, survived what has been described as Spain’s worst fishing tragedy in decades. Among the survivors were the vessel’s 53-year-old captain and his 42-year-old nephew, according to the Spanish newspaper La Voz de Galicia. The crew was made up of 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians.

At 21, this was the largest loss of life to sea off Newfoundland in more than two decades.

The Canadian-led operation to find the 12 missing fishermen was called off February 16, as search and rescue teams dealt with strong winds and 10-metre-high seas.

The Newfoundland and Labrador RCMP have said its does not have jurisdiction in the area where the vessel sank and the investigation should fall to the Villa de Pitanxo’s country of registry, which is Spain.

The sinking came 40 years to the day that the Ocean Ranger oil rig on Newfoundland’s Grand Banks, about 315 kilometres east of St. John’s, sank during high winds and massive waves. There were 84 men killed in that tragedy.

The Villa de Pitanxo had left the Spanish port of Vigo in the early evening of January 26 on a quick 14-hour turnaround after arriving from its home port of Marin. It was scheduled to return to Vigo on May 23 after a four-month stint at sea.


P.E.I. Halibut Operation Declares Bankruptcy

CBC is reporting that, according to bankruptcy trustee MNP Ltd., Halibut PEI voluntarily filed for bankruptcy on January 14 of this year.

According to media reports, the company owes $9.5 million to its creditors, including the P.E.I. government, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the Atlantic Fisheries Fund (AFF).

CBC stated that the P.E.I. government provided financing to the company on a number of occasions over the years and the company owes $2.1 million on a loan through the Prince Edward Island Century Fund. The company also owes $1.6 million to ACOA and $1 million to the Atlantic Fisheries Fund.

In an earlier Navigator story, the Victoria-based halibut operation, which is housed in a former lobster plant/pound, was the only facility in the province growing the valuable fish and one of only three doing so in the Maritimes.


Icewater Seafoods Cancels Imports of Russian Cod

Arnold’s Cove-based Icewater Seafoods recently announced that it will be no longer importing shipments of Russian cod.

Icewater President and CEO, Alberto Wareham made the announcement on March 1. Icewater operates the only state-of-the-art groundfish production facility in North America focused on the production of North Atlantic cod.

Alberto Wareham

“Like others around the world, we are following the invasion of Ukraine with deep concern and sadness. We are simultaneously heartbroken for Ukrainians and inspired by their courage. We are committed to doing our part to offer them unwavering support.”

Wareham said the minimal cod available from Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries requires Icewater Seafoods to also import frozen-at-sea (head-off gut-out) cod for further processing by its 225 local employees. Under normal circumstances, that is primarily Russian and Norwegian cod. “Given the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine, we are not buying cod from Russia. We have also cancelled the last shipment, which was ordered in the week before the invasion began. We have communicated this decision to our customers in Europe and North America, as well as our employees here in Arnold’s Cove. This decision creates daunting operational challenges. More importantly, this decision aligns with our values as a company, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and as Canadians. We have long said we will always do the right thing when it comes to the sustainability of our fisheries. We will also do the right thing as global citizens. Icewater Seafoods is in the process of examining alternative supply options and remains focused on doing everything possible to provide employment for its 225 dedicated employees.”


McCurdy Appointment Insult to Processors, ASP Says

The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) came out swinging after news from the provincial government that Earle McCurdy — former FFAW President — had been appointed to the Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel, the arbitration body used to set prices in the fishery.

The ASP says the appointment is a clear conflict of interest and an insult to its members.

“Mr. McCurdy’s appointment is an insult to members and undermines the independence of the arbitration process. We are going in the wrong direction and this flies in the face of our calls for a more professional and independent arbitration model,” said Derek Butler, Executive Director, ASP.

Butler says McCurdy has spent his professional life fighting the interests of processors and undermining their contributions to this province.

“This process calls for someone who is capable of a wide perspective on issues. That is not Mr. McCurdy’s forte,” said Butler.

“No fair-minded member of the public will see this any other way,” added Butler.

“Mr. McCurdy is the paragon of bias, representing one side of this industry unequivocally. He represented his side without apology, but independent he is not. Now the FFAW has essentially got one vote in their pocket on a three-person panel. It is not fair and it is not right.”

McCurdy served 21 years as head of the FFAW and often appeared before the panel when its job was to arbitrate the price of fish if the two parties, the FFAW and ASP, could not reach agreement.

“Corks are popping at the FFAW headquarters in celebration of the news,” said Butler.

What’s more, said Butler, “government has added a larger measure of instability to an already precarious process, and placed the entire arbitration model and panel in peril. The process is hard enough as it is. This makes it worse. Why would the FFAW want to reach deals when they have the inside track?”

Butler is calling on government to cancel the appointment and if not, for McCurdy to reject it.


High Liner Reports Improved Financial Results in 2021

High Liner Foods reported improved financial results for the year-ended 2021 as the company battles global supply chain issues which led to a dip in its sales volume by about four million pounds in Q4 2021.

Despite the company sharing its struggles with shipping delays, raw material supply issues, labour shortages, limited shipping container availability and port congestion, President and CEO of High Liner Foods Rod Hepponstall was positive about the company’s performance.

“We are pleased, despite the multi-headwind environment, that we grew sales, increased our profitability and for the third successive year, delivered on our goal of generating year-over-year EBITDA improvement,” Hepponstall said.

“This is the result of executing against our branded, value-added strategy, strong execution across our organization and excellent work by our supply chain team to maximize our product availability by mitigating the impact of major global issues. We continue to benefit from our early action on supply chain diversification, however given the extent of the global supply chain challenges, we were unable to fully satisfy demand for our products in the fourth quarter, impacting overall volumes. We will continue to pursue all potential avenues to satisfy the strong demand and build inventory in the face of supply challenges that we anticipate will prevail for the first half of 2022,” Hepponstall added.

For the full year, High Liner reported an adjusted EBITDA of $90.4 million, up from $88 million from last year. The company also saw its sales and gross profit jump from the full year 2020.


DFO Outlines Potentially Costly Offences

Several Provincial Court cases in the last two years highlight the potential costs, both financial and legal, of obstructing fishery officers.

Conservation and Protection officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have a wide range of powers to enforce the rules and regulations set out in Canada’s Fisheries Act. Failure to comply has led to charges and fines for individuals and companies.

In the most recent case on December 14, 2021, Christopher Schill pleaded guilty to obstruction charges in North Vancouver Provincial Court and was fined $5,000.

Schill, along with fellow crew member Sammy Williams and vessel skipper Scott Steer, was arrested on March 1, 2020 in an investigation and a series of subsequent trials resulted in a lifetime fishing ban for Steer and penalties for the crew. In addition to the fine, Schill has been ordered to have no contact with either Steer, or Williams, for the next three years.

On November 17, 2021, in Prince Rupert Provincial Court, Bandstra Transportation Systems, Ltd. pleaded guilty to a violation of Canada’s Fisheries Act for failing to comply with a demand for records received from a fishery officer.

The Honourable Judge Richard R. Blaskovits ordered the company, which transports fish, among other goods, to pay a fine of $8,750.

On March 4, 2021, Richmond seafood processing company, Tenshi Seafood Limited, its co-owner and a supplier were found guilty of obstruction in Richmond Provincial Court. The fines for all three entities amounted to $110,000 in total.

On August 31, 2020, in Prince Rupert Provincial Court, a long-time commercial vessel master was found guilty of obstructing and specifically hindering a fishery officer. The fine was $10,000 and the Honourable Judge C.A. Struyk commented that “Commercial fishers, simply, must fully cooperate and ensure fisheries officers are allowed to conduct inspections. …the court will not take lightly offences that involve fisheries officers doing their jobs and exercising their legal powers under the Fisheries Act.”

“Fishing is a highly regulated activity that requires a significant degree of reporting. Information from the many parties who are involved in the catching, processing and transporting of fish to the final consumer contributes to traceability. This is a vital component for sustainable stock management, food safety, Canada’s treaty obligations and international reputation, and for DFO’s ability to carry out its responsibilities. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities,” DFO stated.

Anyone with information about suspected violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act and regulations can call the Fisheries and Oceans Canada toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or e-mail the details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.


Mowi Tops Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index Again

Norway-based salmon farming giant Mowi was ranked the most sustainable protein producer for the third year in a row on the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index.

The report is now in its fourth edition and assesses over 60 of the largest global meat, dairy and aquaculture companies on ten environmental, social and governance themes aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Speaking about Mowi’s ranking on the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index, Mowi CEO Ivan Vindheim said, “This shows again that Mowi is at the forefront of sustainable food production. I am proud and humbled to lead a company and an organization that is a recognized leader in sustainable food production. Importantly, the Index highlights that aquaculture and salmon farming is part of the solution toward shifting to a green economy.”

Mowi scored an 81 out of 100 and was rated “Industry Best” against the criteria aligned to the SDGs including greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and biodiversity, use of antibiotics, animal welfare, working conditions, food safety and governance.

Chief Sustainability and Technology Officer, Catarina Martins, added “I am delighted to see Mowi’s sustainability strategy and achievements being recognized in this global rating. For three years in a row now, Mowi is considered the most sustainable animal protein producer in the world. This achievement is the result of hard work and passion for what we do every day: producing food that is good for people and good for the planet!”

Mowi was joined on the list by fellow Norwegian salmon farmers Grieg Seafood, who finished in second, and Lerøy Seafood in fourth, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council.

“Norwegian aquaculture continues to lead the way for protein producers across the world, and it is a great source of pride for the industry to see that their hard work is being recognized,” said Renate Larsen, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The Council noted that of seven companies ranked as “low risk,” three were Norwegian aquaculture companies.


Fugro Targets Reduced Carbon Footprint in Canada

Fugro is building a remote operations centre (ROC) in the company’s St. John’s office, located in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The ultra-modern communications hub is scheduled for completion in Q4 2022 and will complement Fugro’s global network of ROCs, which make it possible to complete offshore operations onshore via remote and autonomous technologies.

For Fugro’s clients in eastern Canada, this will mean safer, more efficient and more sustainable delivery of marine Geo-data and related services.

The St. John’s ROC is being funded in part by the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Oil and Gas Industry Recovery Assistance Fund, a programme of the provincial and federal governments. It was selected for funding based on the ROC’s local employment opportunities, environmental benefits and support to existing oil and gas installations.

In addition to building the onshore communications hub, Fugro will upgrade their equipment on selected offshore client assets to facilitate remote services. Fugro will also offer their remote and autonomous services to non-oil and gas clients both locally and abroad, while expanding a diverse and inclusive local employment pool.

Pat Byrne, Fugro’s Marine Asset Integrity Manager in Canada, stated: “We are thrilled to have the government’s support on building an ROC in our St. John’s office and we are proud to help lead the region’s digital transformation, accelerating and enhancing the application of remote operations in the region to reduce the carbon footprint of energy development. Fugro has been moving in this direction for some time and we have seen tangible and significant benefits from our advances in digital technology worldwide.”


Russia, Norway May Face Decline of Groundfish in Barents and Norwegian Seas

Russia and Norway may face a significant decline in the volume of catch of cod and haddock in the Barents and Norwegian Seas within the next several years.

This is due to a steady downward trend in the population of Arctic cod and haddock, as well as other factors.

In accordance with the recent agreement on fishing quotas in the Barents Sea for 2022, which was reached between the Norwegian and Russian authorities, the overall quota for cod for 2022 was set at 708,000 tonnes.

The quota will mainly be divided between Norway and Russia with the Norwegian share being estimated at 321,600 tonnes. The total quota for haddock was set at the level of 178,500 tonnes, with the share of Norway at 88,100 tonnes. In addition, for the first time since 2018, it was decided to set a quota for capelin in the volume of 70,000 tonnes.

However, the approved quotas for cod and haddock became 20 per cent and 22.6 per cent lower than those set for 2021, which, according to some analysts, reflects the ongoing decline of population of both fish species in the Barents and Norwegian Seas.

In the case of Russia, that may be associated with a serious underutilization of domestic fishing fleets, particularly those operating in the Northern Basin of the country.

The situation is complicated by the planned commissioning of 25 new large and medium-sized vessels, built under the program of investment quotas for the needs of the Northern Basin, that will primarily focus on the catch of cod and haddock. In total, these ships will need at least 250,000 tonnes of cod and haddock (in the weight of the catch) for their stable operation throughout the year.


Vietnam Eyeing Canadian Seafood Market

Canada is a promising market for Vietnam’s aquatic products, according to the Vietnam Trade Office in Canada.

According to a Health Canada survey, Canada’s per capita seafood consumption is $270 CAD ($210.9 USD) per year for about 9.14 kg per person, per year.

With a population of nearly 38 million and a policy of welcoming about 400 thousand immigrants a year, the demand for seafood of Canadians is continuously increasing, the Vietnam Trade Office stated.

Statistics of Canada Customs show that Canada’s import of aquatic products increases by seven per cent each year, with a turnover of $4.2 billion CAD in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.

The Vietnam Trade Office in Canada said that room for Vietnam’s seafood exports to Canada remains large as the country’s total export to this market is valued at around $300 million CAD yearly.

As Vietnamese products have a fierce competition with those from the U.S., India, Thailand and China, Vietnamese exporters should study thoroughly and have specific strategy to access the choosy but stable market, noted the Vietnam Trade Office in Canada.


2021 Maine Lobster Harvest Makes History

It was a banner year for Maine lobster value in 2021 as recent data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) shows the iconic fishery hit a historic $724,949,426 landed value, the most in history.

The DMR noted that the value for the fishery jumped 75 per cent from 2020, the largest increase in value, year over year. The increase in value from last year, $312,464,172, was more than the total landed in 2009.

“The Maine lobster industry remains a cornerstone of our state’s coastal economy and identity because of the uncompromising commitment to quality that follows every lobster, from trap to table,” said Governor Janet Mills.

Alongside the record value, the fishery was able to continue its 12-year run of landing close to or above 100 million pounds. In 2021, the fishery landed 108,048,704 pounds, increasing by more than 10 million pounds over 2020, an increase of more than 10 per cent.

The Portland Press Herald reported that the 2021 landing total was the third-lowest total in the past decade. Still, one lobsterman told the publication that strong boat prices made lobstermen push hard to land products. The publication said that the average price per pound was $6.71 in 2021, nearly $2 higher than the year prior.

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