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Up the ying-yang, suddenly there’s a fleet of new factory-freezer trawlers (watch out northern cod)

When OCI christened the Calvert in June 2020, she was billed as the first factory-freezer trawler to be built for the offshore fishery in Atlantic Canada since the '80s, but three more big-boat draggers will soon join Canada's East Coast fleet. Where will the fish come from to feed those massive ships when a belly-load for just one amounts to almost 3 million pounds?

The 74-metreCalvert tied up in St. John's harbour. Built in turkey, the ship provides frozen-at-sea groundfish and has a hold capacity of 760 tonnes.



The $72 million, 80-metre offshore factory-freezer trawler Inuksuk II was launched recently from a Turkey shipyard, and has a capacity of up to 1,320 tonnes of frozen-at-sea turbot or 930 tonnes of northern shrimp.

The ship was built by Baffin Fisheries, which is 100% Inuit-owned, and is based in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She will be the largest fishing vessel ever to sail in Canadian waters. (Not for long.)


Built by Clearwater Seafoods and Oceans Prawns in Turkey, the 82.3-metre Atlantic Enterprise will take over the title of Canada's largest offshore factory-freezer trawler when she soon arrives for Canada.

The ship will fish shrimp, and groundfish such as turbot.


• Nunatsiaq News reported earlier this month that the Nunavut-based Qikiqtaaluk Corp. has signed a deal with a Spanish shipyard for the purchase of a new $100-million, 80-metre factory-freezer trawler, the Saputi II, which should be ready by 2025.

Designed for multiple species, the vessel will be able to harvest 800 tonnes of shrimp or 1,200 tonnes of turbot. Qikiqtaaluk Corp. already operates one fishing trawler, the Saputi.


DFO has implemented a new assessment model for the northern cod stock off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador (fishing zones 2J,3KL), which reveals the stock has likely been out of the critical zone since 2016.

Expectations are the 31-year commercial fishing moratorium will be lifted next year, although DFO will only say "any decisions on the management approach will be made following the northern cod stock assessment and advisory process in spring 2024."

Used to be the FFAW/Unifor said the first 115,000 tonnes of northern cod must be reserved exclusively for the inshore fleet, but in 2020 the union (without a word of objection) allowed a slight change to allow for both the inshore AND indigenous groups.

What quota share will indigenous groups be given, and will those groups be permitted to harvest their cod with offshore draggers?

The offshore sector — represented by the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), and the Atlantic Groundfish Council — has spent a boat load of time/millions of dollars on northern cod science dating back to 2015, with particular attention to migration patterns.

The offshore spent $8.5 million alone on a northern cod acoustic tracking project.

The obvious question is why offshore draggers have been doing northern cod survey work when the 1st 115,000 tonnes are for the inshore/Indigenous?

Turns out it's quite possible indigenous groups may be permitted to have offshore factory-freezer trawlers catch their share.

In June 2021 DFO was asked that question and had this to say, “Details on allocations and the management of those allocations for northern cod will not be established until a TAC (total allowable catch), and allocation are implemented.”

In other words, we'll see.

Ryan Cleary

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit to join. If you have any issues contact me at or 709 682 4862.

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