As it stands, our province’s wild fishery is broken down into 3 categories: Shellfish (mainly snow crab and shrimp), Groundfish (mainly turbot and cod), and Pelagics (mainly caplin and herring). Of these three, Shellfish is king, accounting for $568 million in landed value in 2016, where Groundish landed $118 million, and Pelagics $21 million (stats from Seafood Industry Year in Review 2016).

That is to say, shellfish accounted for 80.2% of our wild fishery’s landed value in 2016.

Surely, we could be milking more from our groundfish industry? After all, it includes the fish we’re best known for, cod, as well as other plentiful fish like turbot and flounder. The latter two may be a harder sale for fish mongers, but that’s nothing a little marketing can’t fix.

Gearing up to gain more money from groundfish would require a little help from the government, and they’re game for it. In September, they announced another $2 million dollars for their “Seafood Innovation and Transition Program” in order to help “the diversification and growth of our seafood industry.”

The program is striving to encourage growth in the groundfish fishery, by supporting harvesters to transition from shellfish to groundfish. The goal is largely to “place Newfoundland and Labrador in a position to avail of opportunities in the international marketplace.”

Examples of “innovation” the program will financially support includes new, automated technology for filleting, chilling, portioning, and packaging fish to enhance company productivity and decrease production costs, so the fruits, or the fish of our labour can better compete in global marketplaces.

A secondary goal of the program focuses on aquaculture, and doing a better, healthier, more financially viable and environmentally sound job of it. Aquaculture has become a huge contributor to our economy. There’s mention of investigating live-holding capacity “to address supply chain issues, and seed development.”

Last year, the program supported 37 projects throughout the province’s seafood industry. This included 35 grand for the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation’s “Ranched Cod Feeding Optimization” and 55 grand for the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association to promote its goods to the world. $100,000 is the maximum a company can receive under the program.

So far for 2017-18, applications from 62 projects have been approved for funding, including 85 grand for MUN’s “Cleaner Fish Project” that will tackle the issue of sea lice in aquaculture operations. The Fogo Island Co-Operative Society received 40 grand to market frozen cod products to Qatar.

Despite the clear mandate of the Seafood Innovation and Transition Program to stimulate growth in groundfish, it’s apparent that not all the money in the fund is earmarked for the groundfish industry. Badger Bay Mussel Farm has received 50 grand from this fund, to help market their Organic Mussels in Northeast USA, and HSF Ocean Products Ltd will get $100,000 to assist them in the on-Shore Processing of Icelandic Scallops. Maybe the fund isn’t getting enough groundfish-based applications?

There is good news in groundfish this year. The volume of groundfish landings increased 20.1% in 2016. To quote Seafood Industry Year in Review 2016, “There was a rise in landings for nearly all groundfish species. The most notable increases were recorded for cod and flounders, up 51.9% and 28.0% respectively. This was the result of an expansion in the northern cod inshore fishery, and higher catches of yellowtail flounder.”