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Report Reveals Untapped Value in Nova Scotia’s Seafood Sector

Valuing our Fisheries

Report Reveals Untapped Value in Nova Scotia’s Seafood Sector

Valuing our Fisheries: Breaking Nova Scotia’s Commodity Curse
published by the Ecology Action Centre
January 21, 2013
Halifax, NS - Owner-operator fisheries are the largest private-sector employer in Atlantic Canada and the foundation of many rural communities. However, a new Ecology Action Centre report warns that Nova Scotia’s seafood industry is failing to maximize value and employment in the sector. Focusing on the groundfish supply chain, Valuing our Fisheries: Breaking Nova Scotia’s Commodity Curse, demonstrates how higher wharf prices can be generated by tapping into non-commodity markets that value quality, sustainability and genuine connections with food producers.
The report, which is now available for download online, shows that as Nova Scotia’s seafood industry has evolved to service global commodity markets, fishermen and fish buyers have become ‘price-takers’. Rather than reflecting actual costs, local wharf prices are set in response to far-off market factors. This problem is compounded as seafood processors and distributors compete with each other to offer lower prices.
“We’re so focused on exporting commodities that we lose the opportunity to market or brand most of our seafood,” says Jordan Nikoloyuk, co-author of the report and Sustainable Fisheries Coordinator at the EAC. “Meanwhile, there are markets willing to pay more for high quality, sustainable seafood that supports local economies and small-scale fishermen.”
One of the report’s key findings shows how the commodity-export model of Nova Scotia’s seafood industry undermines small-scale fisheries by discouraging information sharing and depressing prices.
Valuing our Fisheries: Breaking Nova Scotia’s Commodity Curse proposes an alternative “value chain” model for local owner-operator fisheries. As report co-author Dave Adler – manager of Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery – explains, “Commodity supply chains take products and push them to market. But a value chain happens in reverse. It starts with what consumers want – fresh, fair fish – and then establishes relationships that allow this to happen.”
The report highlights several Nova Scotian seafood products that are environmentally sustainable, support local economies and can demand premium prices regionally and internationally, including:

  • Hook and line-caught groundfish, harvested by owner-operator fishermen, which has a low impact on ocean habitat;
  • Harpoon-caught swordfish, with minimal harmful bycatch of sharks and sea turtles;
  • Hand-dug non-depurated clams;
  • Chedabucto Bay Trap-Caught shrimp, from an innovative winter shrimp fishery in Canso; and,
  • An experimental ‘Diver-Caught Scallop’ fishery still under development that could increase the price of some Nova Scotian scallops by 20%.

Over the coming months, the Ecology Action Centre will further explore the report’s ideas in a series of posts on the “Small Scales” blog at:
The report was supported by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Regional Value Chain Program, which focuses on strengthening the ability of regional producers, processors, distributors, food service providers and retailers to make healthy, sustainably produced food accessible to all Canadians.
For more information:
Jordan Nikoloyuk, Sustainable Fisheries Coordinator
Ecology Action Centre
(902) 446-4840

Dave Adler, Community Supported Fishery Coordinator
Ecology Action Centre           
(902) 442-0999
Download the full report, key conclusions or executive summary
Follow the conversation on our blog

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