November 21st is World Fisheries Day, and as an Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, we have many reasons to celebrate.
Fisheries in the province are diverse, and continue make a substantial contribution to the economy.The infamous cod, and other familiar fish such as mackerel, herring, capelin, snow crab, shrimp, lobster, scallops, and (the sometimes controversial) harp seal are all harvested locally.
Perhaps less known are our fisheries for whelk, urchin, redfish, yellowtail flounder, witch flounder, turbot, hake, pollock, and skate. There are still more.
In 2016, our provincial fisheries were valued at $1.4 billion, but their contributions beyond these pure economics are equally important. Fisheries are part of the cultural fabric of our province, support our blooming tourism industry, and provide employment in rural communities where alternate opportunities are scarce. They also provide nutritious, local, and tasty food.
All of these added benefits are especially prevalent in our small-boat fisheries. These are the fisheries that take place near shore, in waters adjacent to communities. As their name suggests, their gears, vessels, and catches are relatively small, but while small in size, small-boat fisheries offer large benefits to our local economy, culture, and food security. Simply put, these fisheries are too important to ignore.
Across the globe, small-scale fisheries contribute more to local food security than their large-scale counterparts; the quality of fish is higher, and the impact on the marine environment is less. This is one of those rare win-win-win situations.
You may have noticed, however, that in our province, local fish isn’t always easy to find. Although most people prefer to eat local seafood to imports, consumption has decreased, likely due to access (the majority of Newfoundland and Labrador fish is exported) and lifestyle changes.
The value of small-boat fisheries is increasingly realized through initiatives like the adoption of cod pots in Fogo Island,which are used to produce high quality cod in smaller, more sustainable operations. In Petty Harbour, the community has maintained their traditional hook and line fishery to conserve the traditional fishing practice and also protect cod (this method is less destructive than the commonly used gillnets).
Fishing for Success, also in Petty Harbour, supports fisheries in a different way, by offering a range of programs and workshops that pass on traditional skills and knowledge.
Upcoming World Fisheries Day is an opportunity to learn about, celebrate, and support the fisheries that surround us.If you are not sure where to start, here are a few suggestions:
- If you eat fish, eat local fish. Locally caught fish are often available at small retail shops, like the ones located in Ropewalk Lane and Churchill Square.
- Support the organizations that promote sustainable fisheries and support our fisheries.
- Appreciate our fish harvesters and let them know you value their skilledwork.
- Join us in celebratingWorld Fisheries Day on November 21st at the Bruneau Center, Memorial University, starting at 5 pm. Meet organizations working to support fisheries, learn about fisheries-related projects, hear discussion about how to make fisheries and fishing communities sustainable, and taste and help judge the “great fish taco” contest. For more information about the event, visit http://toobigtoignore.net
Article by Kim Olson, Special to The Overcast