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Cod 'becoming new salmon' in Norway, but at 64¢/lb it's far from King in Newfoundland

According to DFO, 64¢/lb was the average price paid to the inshore fleet last year for northern cod — the best whitefish in the world. The price has risen to start the 2022 season (97¢/lb from 80¢/lb for Grade A), but it's miles behind behind shellfish prices like crab ($7.60/lb) and lobster ($8.78/lb), and doesn't come close to offsetting the rising cost of diesel/all fishing expenses.

The inshore fleet of St. Bride's.


The FFAW-Unifor and Association of Seafood Producers announced the cod price to start the season this past Wednesday after "several hours" of negotiations.


They should have taken much longer.


COD PRICES FOR 2022 SEASON

From the opening of the fishery until July 31st, cod prices include: 97¢/lb Grade A, 38¢/lb Grade B, and 20¢/lb Grade C.


From Aug. 1st to the end of the season the prices will rise to $1.05/lb Grade A, 40¢/lb Grade B, and 20¢/lb Grade C.


Those increases (while an incentive for bringing in the highest quality fish) won't come close to offsetting the even greater increase in the cost of diesel and every other fishing expense, and are an insult to the inshore fleet.


GRADE FISH ON THE WHARF

The problem with the A/B/C grading system is that codfish isn't graded at the wharf when the fish is landed, but later when it arrives at the plant.


While enterprise owners have changed how they fish cod to dramatically increase the quality of product, a garbage grading system ends costing them.


According to DFO figures, the average price paid the inshore fleet in 2021 for round (whole) cod was 64¢/lb — down from 72¢/lb in 2019. The total number of enterprises fishing northern cod also dropped by about 13% from 1,259 last year — from 1,442 in 2019.



In Norway, cod is said to be "becoming the new salmon" in terms of higher prices. Whole cod are up 50%, according to Undercurrent seafood news, driven by rising fuel, while transportation costs are also up 32%.


When those costs are eventually passed onto consumers their reaction will tell the tale of 2022 fish prices, and beyond.


Industry players believe cod may work itself into premium product. "Cod is not going to be in cheap fish sticks anymore."


NORWAY'S COD FISHERY IS HUGE

Norway's cod quota this year is set at 385,000 tonnes.


In comparison, Newfoundland and Labrador's three adjacent cod fisheries had a total cod quota last year of just over 15,000 tonnes — 12,999 tonnes in Labrador/eastern Newfoundland (fishing zones 2J3KL), 1,000 tonnes in 4R off western Newfoundland, and 1,346 tonnes off the island's south coast in 3Ps.


All three stocks have been designated by DFO science in the critical zone, meaning fishing must kept to a minimum.


The only cod fishery that appears to be growing is off southern Labrador (fishing zone 2J), where landings reached 1,272 tonnes in 2021 — a 380% increase over 2018 when 264 tonnes were landed.


Ryan Cleary

Executive Director, SEA-NL


To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail sea-nl@outlook.com Please sign SEA-NL's petition to the House of Commons on non-core commercial fishing licences here.


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