FFAW, fish processors come together to revitalize groundfishery

As shellfish stocks decline in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province’s major fishery union and a number of fish processors are putting aside their differences and coming together to help rebuild the ground fishery.
Officials from FFAW-Unicor and several processing companies announced the formation Friday of the Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

As shellfish stocks decline in Newfoundland and Labrador, members of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union and a number of fish processors are putting aside age-old differences to help rebuild the groundfishery.

Harvesting and plant worker representatives from the FFAW and officials from various fish processing companies — including Beothic Fish Processors, Codroy Seafood, Atlantic Ocean Products and Allans Fisheries — announced the formation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council on Friday in St. John's.

Officials said the council will work together to develop collaborative solutions to issues that arise as the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador shifts back towards groundfish as a major economic driver, more than two decades after the cod moratorium put thousands out of work. 

FFAW president Keith Sullivan said that working together is a necessity for the future.

"As the fishery begins another transition period, stakeholders must work together to develop a strategic vision for the future of the groundfish industry," he said.

With shellfish stocks in decline, Sullivan said stakeholders need to plan for the future. 

Transition back to groundfish impending

The new council's vision includes planning for the development of new infrastructure to handle groundfish, seeking investment to the industry, and developing strategies to attract and retain youth in coastal communities.

It's going to take several years of really good planning on the harvesting side, on the processing side, and on the marketing side to really get the value out of these initiatives- Bill Barry

Officials said a "Plate to Ocean" strategic plan will focus on maximizing the value of local groundfish products in order to improve the industry's financial viability and long-term sustainability across the province.

Barry Group CEO Bill Barry said the formation of the council is necessary to ensure that the revitalization of the ground fishery stays on track.

He said an improvement in environmental conditions in the past few years has led to higher levels of northern cod resources, turbot stocks, and redfish in parts of the province. 

"It's going to take several years of really good planning on the harvesting side, on the processing side, and on the marketing side to really get the value out of these initiatives," said Barry.

If stakeholders don't act now, he said, they won't be prepared for the transition back to groundfish. 

"Without hope and without a plan, five years down the road it will still be a mess."

"If we do this properly within the next two, three, four years we're going to develop really good dynamic fisheries that can bring a lot of wealth to Newfoundland and Labrador."

Council officials said they are open to other food processing companies joining the council at a later date. 

About the Author

Andrew Sampson

Andrew Sampson is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.