Huge haddock tows from Georges Bank land in Nova Scotia
Fish sent to U.S., where windfall coincides with lower Canadian dollar
A huge increase in the haddock catch off Georges Bank has the southwestern Nova Scotia port of West Pubnico booming this week.
Pubnico's concrete wharfs have been swarming with forklifts and semi-trailer trucks for days as the fleet lands some of the 16 million kilograms of Georges Bank haddock available for fishermen to catch this year.
"We probably landed a million pounds this weekend," said Richard 'Bee' d'Entremont, the president of Acadian Fish Processors Ltd., as his crew unloaded 36,000 kilograms of freshly caught haddock.
"I love it. Money. People working. And a future, a future in the fishery. The fishery is healthy down in this end."
West Pubnico is a 10-hour to 12-hour boat ride to the Canadian side of Georges Bank — a large elevated area of the sea floor that separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean. A remarkable number of haddock that hatched in 2010 survived in the area and are now large enough to be caught.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada attributes several factors to a general recovery of haddock on Georges Bank, including favourable environmental conditions, less fishing effort and reduced capture of small fish in the fishery.
The biomass has grown from a low of 10,300 metric tons in 1993 to 183,300 metric tons at the beginning of 2013.
Officials can't say what caused the "exceptionally strong" class of 2010.
"At this point it is not possible to say if the increase can be attributed to some sort of cycle and if it will continue to follow some sort of pattern," Luc Galton, a spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told CBC News in a statement.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has increased the 2014 quota by 250 per cent, to 16,470 metric tons.
"It's the most we've ever had in a two day span," said Gibby d'Entremont of Nova's Finest Fisheries Inc.
His plant landed 163,000 kilograms this week and has farmed out some of it to other fish plants in the area.
"It's actually too much at one time. But during the wintertime we can't schedule the boats how we want to, it's weather related," he said.
"We had big tows. The fish came in quick and we got to deal with it. Lots of fish is better than no fish."
Much of the haddock is being exported to the United States where the bonanza coincides with a drop in the Canadian dollar, making the catches even more lucrative.
'We just want to be cautious'
"Our haddock quota alone will generate a couple of hundred thousand dollars more in revenue that otherwise wasn't there last year," said Gibby d'Entremont.
He's hopeful the large landings will continue for some time, spurred by promising 2011 and 2012 year classes and anchored by the amazing 2010 biomass.
"This year class alone will provide five or six years of good fishing for us," he said.
At Acadian Fish Processors Ltd., Bee d'Entremont said he's "a little bit worried" by the big quota increase.
"We just want to be cautious. Not to go too big, too high. So we have a future," he said.
The current rush comes to an end in early February when Georges Bank closes for spawning until June. In the meantime, the fleet will move to grounds closer to the shore where the haddock population is also healthy.