Workshop on the future of the Newfoundland cod fishery


Jónas R. Viðarsson

Director of Division of value creation

“With the Northern cod stock rebuilding, how does Newfoundland and Labrador create a competitive, sustainable and viable cod fishery for the future?” this is the question that was asked at a workshop organised by the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI) in Gander NL, in November 2017.

A quarter of a century after the collapse of the Northern cod stock, the stock is now showing signs of improvement. Fishermen, scientists and government officials are now hoping that catches can return to levels that they were at before the collapse. The annual catches used to range from 300-800 thousand tonnes, but were almost overnight reduced to zero. A moratorium was implemented in 1992, which had the effects that unemployment rose in Newfoundland to figures they have never seem before or later.

The rebuilding of the stock has taken extremely long time. Some very limited catches have been allowed for the past few years, and in 2017 the total allowable catch was 10 thousand tonnes. The fact is though that the harvesting and processing sector is not prepared to start large-scale processing of cod. The fishing vessels, the processing plants, the technology, know-how, logistics, sales- and marketing channels, as well as the overall infrastructure is not up-to-date.

The workshop was attended by approximately 200 key stakeholders that discussed how the sector should prepare for increasing catches. Experts from Norway and Iceland presented how the sector is operated in their countries. The representatives from Iceland were Ögmundur Knútsson from the University of Akureyri, Axel Helgason from the National Association of Small Boat owners and Jónas R. Viðarsson from Matís. They emphasised in their presentations that there is a need for large-scale investment in infrastructure, technology and know-how if the Newfoundland cod sector is going to be competitive. But they also pointed out that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The technology and know-how is available in Iceland. They also encouraged the Newfoundlanders not to think of other cod suppliers as competition; Jónas for example stated that “it is in the interest of all cod producers that Newfoundland produces quality cod products that are well appreciated by consumers. It will only enlarge and strengthen the market for cod. If Newfoundland on the other hand does not rise to the occasion and delivers inferior quality products to the markets, it is likely that it will harm other cod suppliers, including Iceland and Norway.”

Presentations from the workshop, along with audio recordings can be found at