Nfld. & Labrador·Blog

Baker | A haddock fishery for Newfoundland?

There are rumblings of a comeback for a commercial haddock fishery off Newfoundland's south coast, but Fisheries Broadcast host Jamie Baker doesn't share the excitement.
Crew members work on a fishing vessel in Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

It seems haddock are making a comeback on the south coast of Newfoundland. The comeback is such that scientists believe the stock could support some form of commercial fishery. 

I want to get excited about that. I really do. But I can't.

From a research and ocean biology perspective, it's fascinating stuff. Haddock was last fished on the south coast in the Sixties. It was a pretty good fishery back then, too, but the stock just disappeared. 

The fact that it is making such a return now, half a century later, is not without intrigue for scientist types.

To hear the stock is strong and that the fish themselves are large and healthy — perhaps even more so than in Nova Scotia waters, where haddock has been a mainstay for many years (when you order fish and chips in Nova Scotia, you get haddock) — is equally enthralling.

Where you lose me is when you get to the idea of a commercial fishery. Yes, we do land some haddock in Newfoundland and Labrador each year, but no great amounts.

We are at a time in our history when we can't seem to make a go of cod around here because the price is so low. 

That's only if you can actually get someone to take it. As we found out on the Fisheries Broadcast this week, some fishermen in 3Ps are saying they're leaving cod in the water because nobody will buy it. 

They've even gone to the province to ask for a temporary exemption to either ship out cod unprocessed or else bring in outside buyers.

Low, low prices

Consider for a moment that cod, when somebody is willing to buy it, is currently worth about 50 cents per pound.

The average price for haddock in this province the past two years? Thirty-eight cents per pound.

We have no marketing or strategic economic plan for cod, let alone haddock, a species we haven't fished in five decades. So where does that leave us?

Now look, before all you sharpened pencil types start crafting my demise one harshly written rebuke at a time, please stop to consider that I am not saying it's a useless venture. 

There are folks who will tell you that it's easier to find markets for haddock around the world because it is a cheaper alternative than cod, and also because there seems to be less of it on the world market — as one fishermen said so succinctly on the show this week, the world is afloat with cod.

There are also folks who will tell you that if we had a steady haddock supply, then we could work to find a steady market for it. 

And that's all good.

But if that is the case, then we better get off our arses and get at it now. For every minute of science and research the folks are doing on the water, we better be doing at two minutes of preparation for processing, markets and sales here on land. 

A wise man once told me we spend our lives fishing for fish in Newfoundland and Labrador, when we should be fishing for money. 

I absolutely applaud that we are so keen to do science on haddock, and that we are doing that assessment with a commercial fishery in mind. It's great news. But it's one half of the battle.

The other half will be making sure there's somewhere we can process haddock, and at least some ideas about markets we can sell it into.

Supply and demand. Cart and horse. Fish and market.

About the Author

Jamie Baker


Jamie Baker hosts The Broadcast each weekday on CBC Radio.


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