Fisheries union president Earle McCurdy said it won’t be easy, but the provincial government has opened up a glimmer of hope for the province’s cod fishery.
© — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Food, Fish and Allied Workers president Earle McCurdy speaks to the media during a news conference at the Richard Cashin Building in St. John’s Thursday afternoon.
By being allowed ship cod whole and unprocessed to the U.S., fishermen might be able to compete and make a decent income, said McCurdy, who heads the Fish, Food and Allied Workers.
He started a Thursday news conference by saying the 2013 cod fishery was an unmitigated failure.
“It was a disaster last year, and we can’t afford to repeat that in 2014,” he told reporters. “We’re going to need cod as part of the economics of our industry, because a warming trend is improving the environment for groundfish. Unfortunately, the flipside of that is it’s less hospitable for shellfish.”
The idea is to start a pilot project to send cod to the U.S.
Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings said in an emailed statement that he understands the challenges involved, and he wants to try to help.
“As minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I appreciate the frustrations that cod harvesters have experienced this past year as a result of poor prices and market challenges. That is why this government is open to relaxing minimum processing requirements on cod if compelling pilot projects are proposed.”
McCurdy said the priority has to be high-quality fish, so Newfoundland cod can compete in a premium market.
“The only chance we have on codfish is in the high-end markets. In the low-end markets, we’re out of business,” McCurdy said. “You need the absolute best quality to be able to go toe to toe with the Icelanders or, for that matter, the Nova Scotians.”
More broadly, McCurdy said he believes minimum processing requirements are a relic of a different era. In 2013, the regulations made it uneconomical to fish, which meant part of the quota wasn’t caught, he said.
“That whole policy area has to really be re-thought,” he said. “There’s no good having a bunch of regulations and having fish left in the water. That benefits no one.”