Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Will the redfish of the Gulf of St. Lawrence find there buyers?

Processing plants are preparing for the reopening of redfish fishing.

  • Nicolas Steinbach (View profile)Nicolas Steinbach

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Inside one of the largest redfish processing plants in the Atlantic, located in Digby, Nova Scotia, we breathe a sigh of relief. The province would get a third of the minimum allocation of 25,000 tonnes of redfish, a fish that has been subject to a moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for nearly 30 years. But a number of questions remain, notably whether the Gulf redfish will find customers.

For us this is a good announcement. The idea of ​​using historical shares is important to us in fishing. For redfish it's exciting because we are a factory that firstly transforms redfish, says Alain D'Entremont, president of Scotia Harvest.

Fishing for this fish in the Atlantic Ocean was spared by the moratorium, imposed in 1995, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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Alain d'Entremont is the co-owner of the company based in Digby with the Mersey family also from Nova Scotia. The group also operates eight vessels, including three equipped to fish for redfish which are moored in Pubnico, not far from the factory.

Alain d’Entremont is the co-owner of Scotia Harvest with the Mersey family. Mersey Seafoods holds the largest share of the Atlantic offshore vessel quota, meaning vessels over 100ft have obtained the majority of allocations.

The plant processed 3,000 tonnes of redfish last year. With the reopening of commercial fishing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Alain D'Entremont hopes to get his hands on another 4 to 5,000 tonnes of the new commercial quota announced last Friday by the Minister of Fisheries.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">It's also a big relief for the family business which invested more than $14 million in 2021 to build this 45,000 square foot factory at the cutting edge of technology.

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We are one of the two largest redfish producers in the Atlantic, if you include fishing and processing. Here the factory that we designed was with the idea of ​​a large quota of redfish coming, explains Alain d'Entremont.

The company had invested all this money betting on the fact that it would recover its historic shares of the Gulf quota. A risky bet which should pay off for the group which currently employs 86 employees.

If the allocations are confirmed, Scotia Harvest could employ up to 70 additional people.

But all this is conditional on the ability to sell Canadian products. With the collapse of stocks around thirty years ago, the presence of Canadian redfish on international markets declined considerably.

We were a big producer, I'm not sure if we had the majority of the market, but the last few years everyone is talking about Russia, from Norway, Iceland, it's not Canada that we think of first for redfish, continues Alain D'Entremont.

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Scotia Harvest currently employs 86 workers at its Digby plant. If allocations are confirmed for offshore fishermen, which include Mersey Seafoods and Scotia Harvest, Alain d'Entremont plans to add a shift and up to 70 additional employees.

Alain D'Entremont says that it will be necessary to make a name for itself again after almost disappearing from the shelves for 30 years. According to him, the only way to be competitive is to make a redfish that is better and that can be competitive on price, says Alain D'Entremont.

Not only do we have to win back these customers, but we also have to adapt to the new type of redfish. The “goldfish” caught in the Gulf are smaller than elsewhere, but are said to have a good reputation around the world. So we hope to be able to take a little of this market with the Canadian name, hopes the president of Scotia Harvest.

He believes that Canada should have gradually opened the Gulf of St. Lawrence years ago and better anticipated Canada's return to the international scene.

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Unlike other provinces in the Atlantic which were deprived of redfish from the Gulf of St. Lawrence due to the moratorium, Nova Scotia has maintained part of its processing capacity due to access to other areas of fishing which have not been affected by bans. Scotia Harvest's redfish processing lines are already ready for the reopening of the Gulf.

And the quota announced by the Minister of Fisheries of 25,000 tonnes at least question him.

His plant has the capacity to process up to 25 tonnes of redfish per day, up to 10,000 tonnes per year, but he knows that this will not be not enough.

We are not ready for the amount of redfish that will enter the system and then have the number of factories that are built and ready to access the right market, he says.

There are three factories in Nova Scotia which, like his, primarily process redfish, including his and a handful of others in Newfoundland and the Gaspé.

And building new factories, equipped with new ships, will take years.

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To break through, or win back, customers, Alain D'Entremont knows that he will also have to continue to invest in the added value of redfish. Like fresh, frozen or vacuum-packed redfish fillets.

In addition, the profit margins on goldfish are very small, the product does not necessarily have the credentials of lobster or snow crab. But more than production capacity and quotas, it is the markets that will dictate the number of redfish caught and processed in the coming years.

That's the big question for us, it's finding the technology that can make us more competitive with the global market and allow us to fish all our quotas.

If redfish can be fished all year round off Nova Scotia, Ottawa has still not given an opening date for fishing in the gulf.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Fishermen and processors want answers to this question as well as that of management, access to stock and the types of boats that can be used.

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The federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Diane Lebouthillier.

All these questions should have already been discussed over the last two years, says Alain d' x27;Entremont.

Friday, Fisheries and Oceans will meet with members of the Redfish Advisory Committee (CCS), in order to allow stakeholders and indigenous groups to ask questions regarding the reopening of the commercial redfish fishery in Unit 1.

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