An experimental method for catching cod is proving to be a big success, according to some fishermen in the Fogo Island area.
The cod pot was developed locally at the Marine Institute in 2007, and while only a handful of fishermen are using them, the idea appears to be catching on.
Cod fish swim into the baited pots, but are unable to swim back out. This design prevents damage to the ocean floor, as well as allows the fish to stay alive for several days in the cod pot.
The cod pots cost about $1,000 each, a lot more expensive than a gillet, but Gordon Slade, board member with the Shorefast Foundation, said the group saw the potential and footed the bill to put 75 in the water.
Slade said there are some significant upsides to using the new method that the foundation thought were important for the fishing industry.
"Anything we do in the fish harvesting that improves, or does things better with the health of the ocean, is important for everyone. That's the key thing — if you don't have a healthy ocean, you don't have a healthy fishery," he said.
According to Slade, there are some other perks to the new method, like being able to offer a food product unique to Newfoundland and Labrador.
"We talk about the sustainability of the fishing industry, we're really talking about the sustainability of the ecosystem, sustainability of all the different species and so on, so catching the cod in a cod pot gives us a whole range of things," he said.
"It doesn't damage the bottom of the ocean, it's live fish when you bring it to the surface, and then you can process it in the best way to get the highest quality product into the restaurants or wherever."
With only five fishers operating in a very short season, cod-pot cod is in high demand. For now, it's served only in a few restaurants in St. John's, one in Joe Batt's Arm, and the Fogo Island Inn.
The inn's Executive Chef Murray McDonald said the cod-pot fits perfectly with the broader trend towards local, sustainable food, and guests are willing to pay top dollar for it.
"All the guests we have come here, and pretty much in most of the culinary scene around the world, people want to know where their food comes from, who touches it, and anything in the whole chain of handling from it being grown to being butchered, to being delivered or cultivated, grown or foraged, people want to know that," said McDonald.
"People also want to go to a different part of the world and try something different, so they can come here to Newfoundland, get the cod-pot cod … and it has a unique taste to it that you just can't get anywhere else."
While the cod pot method is yet to catch on with fishermen on a larger scale, those using them said it's worth it to have the knowledge that on bad weather days, the fish will be able to survive if a boat can't make it safely out to collect their nets.