GANDER, NL – Austin Reid believes a sustainable cod fishery can be achieved in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it will require a different approach.
The Seldom, Fogo Island fisherman believes the province needs to break away from its bulk fishery past and focus on quality.
“I think we need to listen to what scientists are saying,” he said. “Don’t move too fast; focus on quality to get a better price on small amounts.”
The approach has been working well on Fogo Island, according to Reid.
Using handlines and with three quotas – shared between himself and his brother – they landed 104,000 pounds of round cod fish this season.
Those landings were spread over an 11-week period with single, weekly quotas ranging from 2,000-5,000 pounds.
Because of quality control measures — with bleeding, icing and storage of the catch — only 340 pounds of hand-lined fish weren’t classed as Grade A.
While Reid didn’t disclose the price received, he did point out that the Fogo Island’s Shorefast Foundation – which has developed its own markets – purchased Grade A cod at $1.50 per pound.
The Fogo Island Co-Op was purchasing for 83 cents per pound.
“(Shorefast) has been buying fish for three years – every year for the last three years they have increased their price to fishermen,” Reid said.
“So it’s telling us that quality means something.”
If quality can be brought to the market, he said fishermen could continue to make a living without putting additional pressure on the rebounding stock.
Using the right gear is also important, he said, to ensure quality.
“We won’t produce quality if we fish like we did in the past with gillnets,” he warned.
“If we want a good price in the market place, we have to prove to the world that we can land top-quality fish,” he said.