Cod farmers to help diversify fishery
The Newfoundland and Labrador Cod Growers Association, with assistance from the Strategic Regional Diversification Agreement, will help four cod farmers in Trinity Bay and two in Bonavista Bay take full advantage of this emerging new economic resource.
Today's announcement of $100,000 was made by Fred Mifflin, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and Beaton Tulk, Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.
"This project is another step in building a more diversified and sustainable fishery," said Minister Mifflin. "The Newfoundland marine environment is well suited for cod farming and this investment is an effort to kickstart this emerging industry. Beyond the direct job creation benefits of this initiative there is significant potential for indirect job creation in the service sector."
Twelve fishers will be employed full-time from June to December as a result of this project. An additional 24 will be employed part-time. Some 30 individuals have been licensed around the province for cod farming for the 1998 season. An additional 20 sites are planned for each of the years 1999 and 2000. Cod farming has the potential to create several hundred jobs in coastal areas of the province.
"Cod farming holds great potential for rural Newfoundland," said Minister Tulk. "The success of these six grow-out operations will set the stage for further expansion within the industry. Cod grow-out farms have the potential to create new jobs and be a major economic contributor to the fishery of the future."
The Strategic Regional Diversification Agreement is a 70:30 cost-shared agreement between the federal and provincial governments respectively. The agreement is administered federally by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and provincially by the Department of Development and Rural Renewal.
Cod farming is the taking of wild cod, placing them in ocean cages, and feeding them until they attain marketable size. This method of maturing cod is profitable, relatively inexpensive to engage in, and adds considerable value to a limited resource.
Cod farming became prominent in Newfoundland in the 1980s when fishermen were catching large numbers of under-sized cod. At the same time, the Japanese market required only female caplin leaving tons of male caplin to be dumped. Newfoundland businessman Cabot Martin conceived the idea of feeding male caplin to under-sized cod and thus cod farming was born. In 1985, Sea Forest Plantations Ltd. was incorporated to commercialize cod farming along the Southern Shore.
In experiments with wild cod, Dr. Joe Brown of Memorial University's Ocean Sciences Centre discovered that freed from the stress of predators and given unlimited food, cod could grow up to two per cent per day. In general terms, a two lb. cod would become a four lb. cod in about 100 days.
Another advantage of cod farming is that it allows marketing the fish when prices are higher. For example, in 1992 Sea Forest Plantations bought one lb. codfish for 30 cents a pound in May, grew them out to two lb. and sold them in October at $1.60 each.
The Northern Cod moratorium deprived Sea Forest of new supplies of wild cod, so it took its existing cod and trucked them around the province to provide training under NCARP to fishers. Many fishers were initially skeptical about the process but were convinced by the hands-on training. To date several hundred have been trained in cod farming.
In 1997, Wilf and Wesley Williams, graduates of the course, were two of eight fishers who participated in a cod test farming program. In July they were allowed to trap 10,000 lb. of cod of mixed sizes at Southern Harbour. They transported their catch to a 35 by 40 by 18-foot cage near their homes in New Harbour. The cage was made from fish nets supported by floats. The fish were fed caplin, herring and squid and by December had grown from 10,000 lb. to 22,000 lb.
Cod farming differs from regular aquaculture in that the fish are generally wild stock rather than selectively reared species, and are fed readily available food such as caplin and herring rather than imported prepared diets. The cod are generally kept only a few months during the summer rather than the 18 months or so for other finfish species. This reduces the risk of over wintering.
Cod farming makes efficient use of limited biological resources. It extends the season in which cod can be sold, and it provides a high quality product that provides a better income as the fish can be sold when market prices are highest.
1998 09 01 12:00 p.m.