Know Your Tuna

When you think ‘tuna’, what comes to mind? Likely flakey fish in a can or mom’s tuna salad sandwiches. At Afishionado, we want you to know that tuna are wonderfully diverse. There are 15 different species of tuna. Tuna are truly extraordinary; some species can swim as fast as 75km/hr and migrate thousands of kilometres every year. I once showed a friend a photo of a 700 pound tuna caught off the coast of Nova Scotia and was surprised to hear “THAT’S A TUNA?!, I thought they were small!”. Nope, weights range from 73lbs in Skipjack Tuna 1472lbs in Bluefin. They’re big, bold and beautiful!

Unfortunately, tuna harvested for consumption are often caught unsustainably. One of the most common capture methods is by using a purse seine net, where two boats use a net to encircle an entire group of fish, catching everything in the area. Another method involves floating lines that trail with thousands of baited hooks, also known as longlining. Both of these methods catch massive amounts of fish at once, even fish other than the target species. The non-target species caught in a fishery are called “bycatch”. In the case of tuna fisheries, common bycatch includes other large fish species, like sharks, and sea turtles.

At Afishionado, we only sell tuna caught from healthy stocks by surface trolling, where there is no significant damage to other species or young tuna populations. Catching younger tuna can devastate populations in mass scale fisheries, by removing a generation before they are able to reproduce. We also sell tuna that has been caught as bycatch. Bycatch is an unfortunate reality in many fisheries. However, dealing with tuna caught as bycatch helps us to gain momentum in the industry, so that we can make a larger impact towards increasing the sustainability of fisheries.

If you’re looking for an oppor-tuna-ty for culinary delight, the most commonly consumed species are yellowfin, skipjack, albacore, bigeye and unfortunately, bluefin, which is endangered. Here’s some information to help you get to know each species in more detail:


1. Skipjack Tuna
Katsuwonus pelamis

 

 

 

 

 

Characteristics

  • Live up to 4 years
  • Grow up to 3.5′ long
  • Weigh up to 73lbs

Food Uses

  • Canned

FYI

  • Skipjack are a smaller tuna and is typically canned. So when you’re thinking ‘mom’s tuna sandwiches’, this is your guy!

2. Yellowfin Tuna
Thunnus albacares

 

 

 

 

Characteristics

  • Live up to 7 years
  • Grow up to 6.7′ long
  • Weigh up to 427lbs

Food Uses

  • Steaks
  • Saku Blocks

FYI

  • Yellowfin is one of Afishionados most popular tuna products, sold as steaks (pictured above) and saku blocks.
  • Our Yellowfin comes from ANOVA Seafood and an Indonesian fishery that is part of the Living & Fishing This project was established by ANOVA, in cooperation with NGOs and aims to improve fisheries management. The main objective is to increase the capacity of the fishing communities involved, preserving their traditional livelihood and to keep Yellowfin populations healthy. This yellowfin is caught using a handline. Handline fishing has almost no bycatch and low environmental impact.

3. Albacore Tuna
Thunnus alaunga

Characteristics

  • Live up to 7 years
  • Grow up to 4.3′ long
  • Weigh up to 88lbs

Food Uses

  • Canned
  • Steaks

FYI

  • Albacore is another one of Afishionados most popular tuna products. Our Albacore loins come from Organic Ocean, a West Coast company established by independent fishermen looking to strike a balance between their traditional way of life and fisheries impacts.
  • These tuna are caught off the coast of Haida Gwaii, from healthy, well-managed populations.
  • Albacore has the highest level of Omega-3 fatty acids of all tunas and is considered to have a more delicate and melt-in-the-mouth flavour than other tunas.

4. Bigeye Tuna
Thunnus obesus

Characteristics

  • Live up to 10 years
  • Grow up to 7.5′ long
  • Weigh up to 462lbs

Food Uses

  • Steaks
  • Sushi

FYI

  • Bigeye has similar qualities as Yellowfin and Albacore, but they can grow much larger! Bigeye tuna steaks were featured in a September 2017 Catch of the Week. However, Afishionado only deals with Bigeye tuna caught as bycatch at this time.

5. Bluefin Tuna
Thunnus thynnus

Characteristics

  • Live up to 15 years
  • Grow up to 9.8′ long
  • Weigh up to 1472lbs

Food Uses

  • Sushi

FYI

  • Bluefin tuna are without a doubt, the king of all tunas. They swim the fastest and travel the furthest, and thus are appropriately nicknamed “The Ferraris of the Ocean”
  • Unfortunately, these giants are endangered. Poor fisheries management has led to years of unsustainable quota, causing a significant depletion of stocks. The high value of this fish may contribute to inefficient fisheries management; some are sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars!
  • We want you to recognize the beauty of the Bluefin, but please don’t eat them in your sushi!

 

Soothing the Fear of Farmed Fish

Do you eat meat? If you do, it’s more than likely been farmed, and highly unlikely that it’s been exclusively hunted from the wild. Most meat eaters can tell you that how farmed meat is grown has all sorts of differences, from its taste to its environmental impact. That’s why we find it particularly peculiar that many seafood consumers still have a steadfast fear of farmed fish. Just as all farmed meats aren’t equal, the same can be said for farmed seafood. We’re here to soothe your qualms and give you a little food for thought.

First and foremost, at Afishionado we absolutely appreciate and encourage scrutinous food purchasing behaviours! Perhaps you only buy a certain type of farmed meat—maybe pasture raised beef or free-range chicken. Maybe you take the time to make sure your eggs are cage-free, and maybe only the freshest spring lamb will do for you! You might go to leaps and bounds to avoid eating beef sourced from a confirmed animal feedlot operation, and perhaps you’d scoff at the idea of eating chicken raised in battery cages. Yet it’s still farmed meat—it’s just that you’ve chosen a specific method of farming that you prefer for sustainability or quality reasons or both.

The initial aversion to farmed seafood is often well deserved. There are many unsustainable large volumes, low-value aquaculture methods that pump low quality farmed seafood into the marketplace while having a huge environmental impact. Yet farmed seafood is far from a catch-all term. There is a distinct difference in quality, texture, taste, depending on how a species was grown. And there is a huge difference in sustainability. There are many different ways to raise a fish, and the resulting products are vastly different.

Just as pasture-raised grass-fed beef might taste different and have a different texture than an animal that was fed an unnatural diet of corn, soy, and grains, an Atlantic Salmon grown in a recirculating closed containment aquaculture facility, fed a diet comprised of sustainably sourced wild marine protein and fish oils, will certainly taste different than an open-net pen-raised Atlantic Salmon that was fed cheap feed comprised of corn and chicken by-products. Responsibly grown seafood can taste absolutely delicious.

 

Despite all of this, some folks are just deadset on wild seafood. It’s wild or nothing. We agree that a wild Atlantic Salmon definitely tastes different than a farmed one. It’s also a given that the modern-day chicken doesn’t taste like wild partridge or guinea fowl. Domesticated mutton and lamb don’t taste like wild bighorn sheep. We still find farm raised meats to be delicious, or we wouldn’t eat them. And farmed seafood can be a culinary delight as well.

Wild seafood is incredible, and if responsibly fished, a sustainable source of nutrition that can sustain consumers and coastal communities for generations to come. But we can’t—and shouldn’t—all eat wild seafood exclusively. We can—and should—celebrate those pioneering individuals and enterprises that are taking a stand against large-scale aquaculture, who take the time to raise delicious seafood responsibly. Together, sustainable aquaculture and sustainable fishing can make our seafood supply chain resilient and diverse for now and generations to come. Our eating decisions directly impact the future of seafood.

by Justin Cantafio, Sustainable Seafood Specialist

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Halifax Oyster Festival September 2017

Hello,

Afishionado Fishmongers is looking for volunteers for the Halifax Oyster Festival to help shuck and schlep. If you are interested in participating we would love to have you. Please feel free to contact us if you have any question or just fill your information below.

Would you like to volunteer with us? E-mail hello@afishionado.ca or choose your suitable session for volunteering to help us shuck!

Friday night session volunteer: click HERE.
Saturday afternoon session volunteer: click HERE.
Saturday night session volunteer: click HERE.

For more information about Halifax Oyster Festival and to buy tickets click HERE.

Paul Greenberg talks in Halifax

Photo: https://www.prhspeakers.com/speaker/paul-greenberg-2

Afishionado Fishmongers is sponsoring Paul Greenberg to come to Halifax. Paul Greenberg is a best-selling American author, whose 2010 book Four Fish became a must-read on seafood sustainability, drawing widespread praise and winning the James Beard writing and literature award. 2014’s follow-up American Catch examines the paradox of the US importing more than 85% of its seafood despite controlling more ocean than any country. His 2015 TED Talk discusses the irrationality of today’s seafood economy, receiving over 1.5 million views. His 2017 acclaimed documentary The Fish on my Plate highlights his year-long self-experiment eating fish with every meal to determine “What fish should I eat that’s good for me and good for the planet?”. Greenberg is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, and a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellow. More about Paul Greenberg, click HERE

About the Event:

Where: Ondaatje Hall, 6135 University Avenue, Marion McCain Arts & Social Sciences building. 
Date & Time: Thursday, Sep 14th, 7:00 pm

Sponsored by:

The proper way to store fish and shellfish

We often receive questions about the best way to store seafood. Proper food handling is extremely important for guaranteeing quality and safety and is paramount for seafood because it’s often more perishable than other foods. Spoilage can happen quickly. Enzymes within seafood flesh kick start the decaying process, which is further helped by naturally occurring microorganisms. Knowing the best ways to safely store seafood can help to make it last longer, taste its best, and limit any risk of illness!

Ideally, fresh fish and shellfish should be kept between 1.5 to 2˚C. For fresh seafood, make sure you never go under 0˚C or over 4˚C! Check your fridge temperature. You might need to consider turning your fridge temperature down to maximize seafood freshness, but make sure it’s not too cold for other fresh products such as fruits and vegetables. The lucky folks among us will have a separate compartment with a colder setting, but regardless, the following information will let you know how long your catch will last and the best ways to store it:

 

Fresh and Frozen Fish

Most sources such as Health Canada recommend that you consume fresh fish within two days of purchase. However, this time varies depending on how fresh the fish really is. Fish could last for up to four or more days after purchase. When purchasing with from your local fishmonger, the best way to be sure is to just ask what they recommend! A good fishmonger will know when your fish was harvested and how long it’ll last under ideal conditions. Alternatively, when purchasing from grocery stores there is often a best before the date that should be followed.

If you can’t consume your fresh fish in time, freezing is a great option to prolong freshness. Your fish should be packaged so that there is little to no air left ꟷ vacuum packing works wonders ꟷ but if you don’t have one, squeezing as much air out as possible will do the trick. Another option is to fill a container with cold seawater or salted water and place the portions of fish in there to freeze. Take note that fish fattier fish like salmon and mackerel can’t be stored as long as those with little fat such as cod or hake. As a rule of thumb, fattier fish can remain in the freezer for up to 3 months, while low-fat fish can be stored for up to 6 months – in your home freezer. When fish has been stored in a commercial or industrial freezer, it is generally good up to 2 years from being packed!

 

Fresh and Frozen Shellfish

Fresh live shellfish should be stored in the refrigerator in a bowl with a damp cloth or paper towel over top. Any live product should never be stored while submerged in water or sealed in air-tight containers or bags because they’ll soon perish from lack of oxygen! Also, be sure to empty any water that accumulates at the bottom of the bowl ꟷ this is particularly common in mussels as they release a lot of water.

The freshness and quality of your shellfish will depend on how long it can be stored in the fridge. Health Canada suggests that all shellfish be consumed within three days, however, when bought fresh and local from fishmongers like us, we can recommend up to a week for mussels and clams, and up to three weeks for oysters! For fresh scallops and shrimp, we suggest no more than two days.

Whether you have leftovers or just want to save some of your shellfish for later, we recommend you cook your shellfish, or you can remove the meat and store in a freezer bag or container submerged in a brine solution or the cooled liquid that it was cooked in. For oysters specifically, it’s best to shuck the oysters and save the liquid to cover the oysters in. Below are some suggested freezer storing times:

  • Lobster – 3-4 months
  • Scallops – 6 months
  • Mussels – 3-4 months
  • Clams – 3-4 months
  • Oysters – 4-6 months
  • Shrimp – 4-6 months

 

As always, if you ever have any seafood related questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our website, or to come have a chat with us in person at the Warehouse at 2867 Isleville Street in Halifax’s North End on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 to 7, during the market day,ans Saturdays from 9-1.

Fresh vs. Frozen – Which is better?

The classic fresh versus frozen debate has taken the world of seafood by storm for decades. In the past, fresh seafood dominated mainly due to frozen seafood—often in the form of mushy fish sticks—having such a poor reputation in the public eye. We think it’s time to debunk the myth and celebrate frozen seafood for its many qualities.

While fresh seafood straight off the boat is undoubtedly top quality, consumers rarely have the opportunity to eat such a luxury. The rise of globalization has led to a large amount of seafood imports here in Atlantic Canada, and fresh seafood may not be as fresh as you think, especially once it’s traveled thousands of miles just to get to your plate. Much of the seafood we consume has actually been imported, and freezing is critical to ensuring freshness. In fact, when seafood is immediately flash frozen—a type of freezing where seafood is frozen between -40˚C to -60˚C degrees extremely quickly—it stays much fresher for much longer. And frozen seafood can be more environmentally friendly, since fresh fish is often shipped by air, requiring more energy than frozen fish, which can travel by boat, rail, or truck.

When you purchase frozen product instead of fresh from small-scale operations you help to support the fishermen and relieve the pressure they face to deliver fresh product immediately after it was caught. Additionally, frozen portions allow consumers to take only what they need from their freezer, and reduce the amount of waste produced in households. Imagine trying to consume this whole Yellowfin Tuna before it goes bad!

Photo: Fishtube.tv

Afishionado sources sustainable handline-caught Yellowfin Tuna from Vietnam and Indonesia that come in convenient eight ounces portioned Saku blocks and steaks, loins, ground meat, or poke pieces. Click to check them out. Frozen seafood is often more affordable than its fresh counterpart and it can be consumed all year long!

Much of the debate between fresh and frozen has also been on the health and nutritional differences between the two. Many people believe that frozen seafood is a lot less nutritionally dense than fresh. The truth is that this difference is minimal. While the water released during thawing does contain some nutrients when thawing is done correctly and if the seafood has been frozen immediately after harvest there, is barely any loss at all. And frozen is often safer to eat because the freezing process kills harmful bacteria!

So yes, if you are living close to the shore and have access to fresh fish that is in season and locally caught, then fresh may be a good option for you, but in all other situations, we feel that frozen can often be a better option.

 

FROZEN PRODUCT 101

A couple tips for ensuring your frozen fish is as fresh and as tasty as possible:

  • Defrost fish in the refrigerator or in a cold-water bath – do not place in warm water as it will impact the texture of the fish.
  • Avoid refreezing fish once it has thawed. From a safety perspective, this is okay to do, but it will comprise the texture of the fish.
  • Know where your seafood is coming from to ensure it has been frozen correctly.

Brandin’ the Bugs

Article: Hana Nelson
Illustration: Scott K MacDonald

How do you make an arthropod world famous? Well, you could brand it. Nova Scotia is certainly committed to the cause.

Nova Scotia recently revealed a provincial seafood brand, and the federal government just granted $325 million to spur innovation in Atlantic Canadian fisheries. Stephen McNeil hinted that a portion of the funds could help create an Atlantic Canadian seafood brand.

Branding poses tremendous opportunities and challenges for our coastal communities. Could it promote price fairness and stability? How can the iconic lobster serve as an economic buoy for our coastal communities? Could a brand promote and protect the province’s owner-operator fishing fleet? How can we rally around lobster to make the world celebrate the quality of Nova Scotia’s seafood?

With landings and sales booming across the province, it’s no wonder there’s an effort to maximize the resource’s value. These are good times after all. In 2016, Canada exported almost a billion kilograms of live lobster and Nova Scotia’s lobster exports were worth just under a billion dollars. But let’s not get carried away. Lobster catches, quality and prices ebb and flow like the ecology of the ecosystems they live in. Only three years ago, the lobster industry was in a slump, with politicians and industry stakeholders meeting in Halifax for the Lobster Value Recovery Summit.

Graeme Gawn, president of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) Local 9 in Southwest Nova Scotia, is interested in optimizing the value of the region’s lobster. “We’re interested in adding value to our product and working in partnership with the buying side of the industry to try to get premium prices for quality lobster,” says Gawn. “We’re all about quality.” Prices that reflect seasonality and quality could give an alternative to lobster fishers who often have to hold onto their product until market prices improve.

The brand could also spur cooperation amongst the mostly independent lobster fleet, and instill more pride in the product. “The pricing system should reflect lobster quality,” says Kevin Squires, president of Cape Breton’s MFU Local 6. “Getting an average price for anything we throw in the crate is hardly an incentive to deliver the best quality possible.”

How will branding impact coastal communities? One thing is clear: the brand will certainly benefit from the romantic imagery of small boats and coastal communities. The independent owner-operator fleet still makes up most of Nova Scotia’s lobster fishing effort. The lobster fishery is integral to many other fisheries in Nova Scotia, including haddock, tuna, halibut, scallops and herring. Small-scale fishers work year-round.

Squires believes in cooperation because “it allows current players to be successful, while avoiding the need for industry consolidation.” If a unified brand will represent our lobster, then we need protective regulations along with it. This should mean enforcing Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s owner-operator policy, a policy created to protect the independence of the inshore fishery and which, if enforced, could make it more affordable for the next generation to enter the fishery.

Lobstering is a different game now. Kevin Squires bought a lobster licence for 25 cents in the 1970s. There is limited entry to the fishery now, and licences can cost more than a house. Evan Baker, a 27-year-old owner-operator from East Jeddore, is an exception. Thirty years younger than the industry average, he knows the recent boom might not last. “I don’t see it going up forever. It’s got to level out or go down at some point.” He fishes halibut and herring outside his short lobster season to stay resilient.

Our lobster is world class. A well-structured lobster brand offers an opportunity to promote the independent fleet that so many of our coastal communities and fisheries rely on. There’s no better time to work co-operatively, focus on quality and create fair prices for fishermen and processors alike.

Originally posted in Local Connections, June 10, 2017

http://localconnections.ca/home/nova-scotia-lobster

Raw Fish 101: Does Your Sashimi Get a Passing Grade?

Sushi has rapidly become one of the most universally accessible and globalized cuisines on the planet. Even if you aren’t a fan of fish I’m sure you’ve “gone for sushi” before or maybe even hosted a “sushi night” where guests bring various ingredients to contribute to a collective maki-making shindig. While there is a growing menu of vegetarian options when it comes to sushi, if you are a fish lover, what kind of fish should you be looking for? The term sushi grade or sashimi grade is often used to describe fish that is destined to be consumed raw, but what does sushi or sashimi grade actually mean?

Believe it or not sushi grade is not an “official” certification in Canada. However, for fish to be called sushi grade or sashimi grade by chefs it must be frozen. Guidelines vary for different species, but you are safest when fish is frozen at -35 for 15 hours. Home freezers usually can be set to as low as -18 which means that if you want to ensure that your fish is sushi grade it should be frozen for 36 hours or more in order to kill any parasites. In his exhaustive book The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and RiceTrevor Corson points out that the reason why traditional sushi chefs seldom serve freshwater fish is due to the very rare instance of parasites. Parasites, unlike bacteria can be killed by cooking and cold enough temperatures. “Unfrozen salmon is not recommended”

At Afishionado we carry a variety of frozen fish which is considered sushi or sashimi grade. Our yellowfin tuna saku blocks and steaks are currently the most popular fish we sell to sushi lovers from our online shop. Our tuna is also sustainablely caught and Oceanwise recommended which makes eating fish you can feel good about hassle-free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hana’s Year-End (Beginning of the Year!) Update

In my usual fashion, I’m all but three weeks late getting to my year-end update! What a wild year of changes and adaptations it’s been, and it only seems appropriate that it’s taken me well into January just to settle down and do some reflecting.

Last year‘s highlight was a complete pivot at Afishionado. January 1st, 2016 marked the end of our six day a week retail seafood stand venture at Local Source Market. They were great hosts to test out our business model. We knew that local customers wanted access to local, sustainably-harvested and grown seafood. The success of our little bustling seafood stand was proof. I met so many wonderful people, and have forged friendships that will last a lifetime! The support that we received at our humble fish stall helped us launch the next evolution of Afishionado.

While operating the retail stand we realized something very important. While we had many incredibly loyal local customers, it was still difficult to source high quality products when limited to only purchasing from our suppliers twice a week and in small volumes. We were seeing so many stories to tell of the fisheries that we wanted support, but just couldn’t buy in volumes large enough to make it worthwhile for them to go out fishing, or to ask processing plants to keep some products from the express transport trucks heading to Boston for export.

Meanwhile, we were researching and learning a lot from Community Supported Fisheries, like Halifax’s Off the Hook, who worked to overcome these exact same challenges. We kept wondering: how do you shift larger volumes from small-scale, sustainable fisheries to as many local consumers as possible within a short time frame?

We were fortunate to be able to learn from some of Off the Hook’s successes and shortcomings, giving us the confidence to embark on a weekly subscription business of our own. Our first delivery was in March, and I was immediately in awe. Right off the bat we had over 50 people sign up! I couldn’t believe it. It was working! We had enough volume, just once a week, to order in quantities that it mattered. We also had more time. Time to tell people the stories of where their fish was coming from. And more time to go out and search for new supply.

Many of those original 50 subscribers are still with us today, and we’re up to 150 customers. I still can’t believe that we have so many amazing customers who follow us online, and trust in us to bring them high quality, sustainable seafood every week. We couldn’t do it without the community we’re building.

We’ve been able to expand outside of the HRM into the Valley and now to Antigonish. We’re hoping to add Truro, Moncton, and Sackville, NB this year.

A natural evolution of the challenges that we’ve faced was the realization that we needed a processing plant to continue growing and support more small-scale sustainable fisheries. While we knew there were products out there that we wanted to bring in and tell the story of, seafood in this part of the world is at the whim of a complicated supply chain and burdensome regulations, all of which requires that product goes through a CFIA-registered plant even for sales within Nova Scotia.

Many of Nova Scotia’s small-scale fisheries and sustainable aquaculture operations haven’t achieved scale to attract the attention of existing processing plants. They operate at small volumes that existing processing plants can’t or simply don’t want to accommodate. With upwards of 90% of Nova Scotia’s seafood leaving the province, and much of it unable to connect to market, we found that in order to source product, we needed to be able to handle it all by physically intervening in the marketplace.

So this month, we began to operate a CFIA-certified processing facility in Millbrook, NS. It’s exciting to begin to overcome some of the challenges that we see facing the Nova Scotia fishing industry, and to move more towards a high-value, storied, transparent, and fair seafood exchange right here in Nova Scotia. Our ongoing growth is proof that there are people who want this type of seafood, and that we don’t have to only rely on the traditional Nova Scotia paradigm of high volume, low value exports. We can and will promote more small-scale fisheries and aquaculture operations in this province. It will be the biggest challenged we’ve faced, but we’re ready with our amazing five-person team to get more Nova Scotian seafood cross Canada.

We’re also excited that this year we’ve been chosen as a Top 25 company in Canada for SheEO, a venture capital fund for female-led and run businesses. Only 4% of venture capital funding currently goes to female-led businesses! Yet over two thirds of new businesses are started by women.

SheEO is trying to overcome that, representing “a new model of wealth creation that uses the power of relationships to upend these challenges and turn them into new possibilities. Through the $1000 contributions of thousands of radically generous women, SheEO invests in a small number of women-led, socially positive ventures, and actively supports them with zero percent interest loans, a guided development program, and access to a global network of female investors, advisors, and customers. Through this approach, women entrepreneurs not only access needed capital, they are also guided in the business strategy and leadership development so necessary for sustained success – and they have access to the mentorship, expertise, and networks of thousands of She-EO members.”

Thank you again for all support and interest and we’re excited to share with you everything 2017 brings!

Hana

Realizing the Value of Our Local Fisheries

Article: Hana Nelson
Illustration: Scott MacDonald

When it comes to seafood in Nova Scotia, many of us think that a fish is a fish is a fish. But an increasing focus on export and commodity markets in Nova Scotia is stripping the identity and value away from our seafood. So how do we maximize the value of our small-scale, community-based fisheries and aquaculture operations?

Here in Nova Scotia, we have some of the best ocean access in the world. We have over 13 thousand kilometers of coastline where small-scale, community-based fishers use age-old and low-impact fishing methods. We have emerging world-class aquaculture producers, too, from land-based recirculating aquaculture systems to low-impact, community-based shellfish farms.

With over $1.6 billion in seafood exports, Nova Scotia is Canada’s number one seafood exporter. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to retain the value of our seafood in Nova Scotia when the majority of our premium fish are exported in a faceless, global commodity market. According to One Nova Scotia’s 2015 report, Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Nova Scotians, over 90 per cent of Nova Scotia’s seafood is exported to foreign markets, often with little domestic processing before it goes abroad.

Consider one of Nova Scotia’s seafood poster children: haddock. Haddock exports represent the most significant loss of value in any groundfish species in our province. Less than 6 per cent of the exported weight of haddock is as fillets. Instead, fish is shipped out whole to be processed somewhere else. By not processing it here in Nova Scotia, we lost over $7 million in direct export revenue in 2011 alone, and that doesn’t take into account the loss of associated economic activity from employment in the processing sector.

Small retailers can’t step in and change this because our provincial government maintains antiquated fish processing regulations that are a direct consequence of this commodity market export focus. New and innovative businesses like ours (Afishionado) can’t access some types of fish we want, let alone fillet it. There is a moratorium on groundfish processing licences, so we have to rely on the increasingly scarce supply of community-based processors who can cut haddock for us and who are also under duress.

Let’s be clear: exporting isn’t bad. We’ve relied on it for centuries and will continue to do so. The tricky thing is, however, when we focus exclusively on the bulk commodity market without telling the story of our seafood — and celebrating it — we lose value, we lose identity and we lose the opportunity for local access. The haddock you eat in fish and chip shops throughout the province was probably caught here but sent on a worldwide odyssey where it was cut abroad, most likely China, and frozen twice before returning to the province.

This message really hit home recently when, sadly, one of our shellfish suppliers drowned while on the water. There are inherent dangers to life on the sea. But if our producers are competing on a convoluted and faceless commodity market, then is it really worth it to brave the perils of the sea? Cheap prices devalue the reality of their livelihoods.

We need to process our own seafood so that we can tell its story and celebrate the communities where it came from. If we want to benefit from place-based marketing, then we need to be able to access that product here in Nova Scotia. Consumers abroad need to be able to distinguish our products in the convoluted global commodity market. We have a robust, independent inshore fleet that could be back out on the water fishing.

Nova Scotia has the story. We have coastal communities that would benefit from branding and storytelling. We can embrace and celebrate a culture that has sustained our province’s growth for centuries. If we don’t have the ability to distinguish a fish by how or where it was caught or grown, or on what scale it was caught or grown and by whom, then we’ll just be another producer of commodities stripping value from our beautiful seafood resource.

Originally published in Local Connections Halifax, January 3, 2017.

http://localconnections.ca/home/local-fisheries

 

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