ONE FISH : OUR BIG VICTORY


Terroir HOSPITALITY applauds long-awaited legislation overhaul allowing direct fisher-to-restaurant sales in Newfoundland and Labrador


Until 29 September 2015, chefs in Newfoundland and Labrador were prevented, by law, from buying fish and seafood directly from the fishers whose ships were docked literally 20 feet from their restaurants. This week, in St John’s, legislative changes were announced that will give the province’s chefs direct access to the local Atlantic harvest, via wharf-to-restaurant sales. This means they can finally offer diners more diverse native species in their freshest form—taking their share in a local harvest largely earmarked for international markets and taking advantage of the healthy and delicious fish that harvesters working through processing plants uniquely would previously have been forced to discard as bycatch.

This change is applauded by Arlene Stein, leader of Canadian hospitality industry organization Terroir. At a round-table meeting in May 2015—as part of Terroir’s One Fish mission to Newfoundland and Labrador—Terroir and Chefs for Oceans brought together local and international chefs, politicians, fishing industry representatives, seafood certification boards and media to discuss sustainable seafood concerns. The conversation around Newfoundland and Labrador’s prohibitive direct-sales legislation was revived and emerged clearly as a hot-button issue for regionally focussed chefs. 

“We are proud to have been part of the conversation and thrilled about Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Vaughn Granter’s announcement,” Stein said. “The Newfoundland and Labrador restaurant scene has exploded over the past few years and has been making waves on the international culinary scene, but outdated direct-sales laws were holding chefs back from tapping into their own fresh ocean bounty and demonstrating the full extent of their creativity and the richness of their local food resources.” 

Effective immediately, restaurant owners can buy a license to purchase up to 300 pounds per species per week, directly from harvesters, making for a fresher and more diverse catch. Jeremy Charles, chef and co-owner of Raymonds and the Merchant Tavern, in St John’s, said: “A $50 fee to purchase unprocessed whole fish... Brilliant! It’s something that we have been asking for, for the last number of years, and I truly believe, with the most recent activities through Terroir and the round-table discussions here in NL, the government actually listened.” 

The new rules allow for the sale of finfish, live crustaceans, squid, seal meat and scallop meat. Todd Perrin, chef and co-owner of Mallard Cottage, said “We are excited to hear of the changing legislation. The devil will be in the details, but as a chef I look forward to more unfettered access to the seafood resources that surround us in Newfoundland.”

As well as pleasing chefs and diners in the province, this move will have positive implications for the environment in that it reduces fish waste from bycatch.


ONE FISH: ABOUT THE EFFORT
 

From 14-17 May 2015, Terroir and Chefs for Oceans brought a select group of hospitality influencers and media to St. John’s to meet fishing industry experts and examine both the history and the current realities of an Atlantic community built on fishing. The objectives were to showcase best practices in ocean protection, learn from the lessons of the Cod Moratorium, stimulate dialogue, and advocate for better access to sustainable seafood. 

 

MADE POSSIBLE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH


ONE FISH: ROCKET TALKS
 

Terroir, Chefs for Oceans and The Restaurants Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (RANL) hosted a breakfast and round-table forum at Rocket Bakery, in St John’s, on 15 May, 2015. 

Local speakers gave an overview of the past, present and future of the fisheries, helping the chefs, restaurateurs and journalists present to better understand challenges and best practices.

At the table were: Tony Doyle, Bay de Verde Fisherman/Vice President of Inshore Division at FFAW-Unifor; Keith Sullivan, President FFAW-UniforDerek Butler, Association of Seafood Producers; Gordon Slade, Shorefast Foundation; and Chef Roary MacPherson, Executive Chef, Sheraton Hotel, St John’s.

At this discussion—during which our #terroirnl hashtag trended nationally—we spoke about:

  • Distribution-system changes—how can chefs and consumers access Newfoundland and Labrador’s bounty in its freshest state?
  • Lessons in resource protection learned from the Cod Moratorium
  • Sustainable Cod Pot fishing and the Shorefast Foundation's New Ocean Ethic projects
  • Ocean-friendly technologies and sustainable fishing systems
  • The power of chefs to directly influence consumers

Our major goal was to figure out how to work together better at every step. The priorities: maintaining healthy seafood stocks, harvesting responsibly, protecting local processing jobs and workers rights, and distributing seafood in a timely manner, so that local chefs and consumers have access to fresh-off-the-boat product.

The need for legislative change became clear. Chefs, fishers and consumers could all profit from direct sales. With better access to the freshest local and sustainable product, chefs could champion Newfoundland and Labrador seafood and create more local consumer demand.

Newfoundland and Labrador seafood is exported all over the world and internationally celebrated for its superior quality, so we need to make sure that those who live closest to this incredible resource are no longer missing out.

 


ONE FISH: MEET YOUR FISHER
 

Restaurants have a great influence, when it comes to how people eat at home. Chefs can launch new trends by using unfamiliar ingredients, and front-of-house staff can do their bit by convincing diners to give them a try. Often those same diners go and buy that new thing they just tasted and loved in your restaurant, a few days later, to cook in their own kitchen. And that’s why you, as hospitality professionals, can make a massive difference, in guiding consumers toward making sustainable seafood and freshwater fish choices.

Why does it matter? Well, between the overfishing of popular species, ocean acidification, and the crazy amounts of bycatch being tossed back into the waters as waste, our marine ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. What we eat now—the type of fish and the way it's harvested and processed—will make a crucial difference when it comes to what’s around for our kids and grandkids to enjoy, in a decade or two. And it looks like their tuna sandwich days are numbered.

For the first time in May 2015, the Terroir Symposium branched out into a series of deeper issues-based sessions, firstly in Toronto and subsequently in St John’s, Newfoundland. We invited fishing industry experts and chefs to the table for a conversation about sustainable seafood.

By examining best practices in wild and shellfish fisheries and aquaculture—with the help of media, fishers, government, academics and chefs—we made it our mission is to figure out how we can support the health of our oceans, rivers and lakes, as well as our seafood and freshwater fish resources, for generations to come.

Click through our ONE FISH posts to learn more about what’s at stake and where we can go from here as an industry. From our first session in Toronto, one big takeaway was that every chef—no matter if they’re working in fast-food or fine dining restaurants—should start by talking with their fisher folks.

And here’s our first Call to Action:

Calling all chefs! Meet with your fisher in person and ask him or her about the major issues, policies and practices in Canadian fishing today.

When chefs build these relationships, they can advocate for the highest quality and freshest possible product and learn about the challenges around sustainable seafood in Canada, whether environmental, economic or relating to workers’ rights. You are in a unique position to transfer knowledge and influence consumer choices. So go get your information from the source—the man or woman on the boat!

To create momentum, use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to share pictures from your meeting with your local fisher. Tell us something you found out. Hashtag your posts: #Terroir2015 #GoneFishing .

 


ONE FISH: ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND
 

Canada was founded on the Atlantic cod fishery over five centuries ago. But in Newfoundland and Labrador, this industry came to an abrupt end in July 1992, after overfishing nearly drove cod to extinction, and a moratorium was imposed indefinitely. In a single day 30,000 people lost their jobs.

This was a devastating blow, with profound social and economic repercussions. But by diversifying their catch and adopting ocean-centered practices, the remaining local fishers reemerged in better shape. Having experienced firsthand the crisis of fisheries collapse, the Newfoundlanders are well positioned to educate the rest of the world about the importance of respecting our oceans, lakes and rivers and making responsible choices.

In St John’s, Terroir participated in a crucial conversation between chefs, government, fishers and certification boards. We also came together for a phenomenal collaborative dinner at Raymonds. We brought team members and international chefs and journalists on a field trip to talk with diverse specialists and piece together a story of resilience. Here’s who we met, what they shared, and where we went:

Dr Jonathan Fisher a research scientist from Memorial University’s Fisheries and Marine Institute brought firsthand testimony from his work collecting ecosystem information in chilly northern waters. He warned that changing ocean conditions are dramatically affecting the dynamics and distributions of marine species populations.

On a visit to the Fisheries and Marine Institute, we learned from several key staff members about responsible aquaculture and aquaponics, and their potential for sustainably feeding our exploding global population. We discovered scientific initiatives in the testing phase, such as using fish farm waste for fertilizer and shellfish industry waste for health supplements. The highlight was viewing an $8.5-million flume tank filled with 1.7 million litres of water—the world’s largest—used to do research for some of the worlds most significant marine institutes and corporations. It can be manipulated to recreate different ocean conditions for testing new technologies and experimental design.

Petty Harbour is a unique fishing community, 15 km from St John’s. There, local fishers have historically played an unusually active role in managing their resources and insisting on traditional methods, such as hand lines and cod traps. In 1961, they banned gillnets and longlines to ensure that more people in the community could profit from fishing and fewer cod perished in ghost nets—lost and damaged nets on the ocean floor that continue catching fish indefinitely. There we met:

With Michelle and Jim Lester, a seventh generation farming couple, we toured the new state-of-the-art, zero-waste aquaponic facility on Lester’s Farm, just outside of St John’s. The Lesters’ goal: to grow lettuce and raise tilapia to sell across the province in a combined and sustainable system.

Mark Lane of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association spoke with us about the possibilities of developing land-based fish farming systems. NAIA represents finfish and shellfish farmers, hatchery producers, supply and service companies as well as academic Institutions developing products with Blue Mussels, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead trout and Atlantic Cod.

Anthropologist, historian and author of Fish Into Wine, Peter Pope, gave us a bigger-picture view of fishing across the centuries in Newfoundland and explained the notions of triangular trading and the much-maligned merchant system.

Larry Dohey, an archivist from the Rooms—home to the biggest museum, exhibition space and archival collections in the province—primed us on the cultural history of Newfoundland and Labrador, covering everything from the first French and Portuguese fishers on local shores to today’s diversified fisheries.

 


ONE FISH: MORATORIUM LESSONS
 

Tony Doyle is a sixth-generation fisher from Bay de Verde and Vice President of the Inshore Division at FFAW-Unifor. He endured the devastating impact of the Cod Moratorium on Newfoundland’s outport communities, in 1992, and went on to diversify his catch and help reshape the fishing industry in more sustainable ways. The following is a condensed excerpt from his presentations at Bacalao and Rocket Bakery.

“Fishing wasn’t just a job; it consumed us all in our community every single day. The off-season, winter, was all about preparation; even at parties, we’d sit and talk about cod. 

1992 was the year of the Moratorium. We had fished cod for around 500 years here before that. But a number of things went wrong—in the mid-60s to early 70s—starting with foreign overfishing.

Once the cod fishery closed in ‘92, it was very difficult for most of the communities here: A lot of people upped sticks and left. Some of us, myself included, hung on. We tried to keep body and soul together with some money the federal government was giving us to stop fishing cod, and also by fishing other species.

Around 1996, the crab resource took off. As small boat fishermen, we weren’t fishing the crab at that time, but we lobbied politicians and bureaucrats, so we could get into it. Eventually we got our own zone. And we started to initiate some ideas that would help us sustain the resource and help rebuild stocks to a higher level.

We only fish the large, male crabs, which are over 95mm—some of those guys can get up to 120 mm, and they’re something really big. We use traps with escape mechanisms that allow undersized and female crabs to escape. They’ll crawl out of the pot at the bottom, so that we don’t have to take them aboard the boats and handle them, because when you do that, there’s mortality. 

Another thing we did was a trial with biodegradable twine, so if we lost a pot and it was left in the water, within twelve months the twine would deteriorate and rot. That way, there’d be a hole in the pot and any crabs that got in there could crawl out. That meant there was no ghost fishing [unmanned pots or nets trapping and ultimately killing fish and shellfish that would never be harvested]. The DFO brought that in as a condition of getting a license in 2013. Those are just some of the things that we have done.

Now shrimp and scallops have been caught here too for the last twenty years. And the cod is coming back. That’s part of the reason why we did the fisheries improvement program with WWF, because we want to make sure that as the stock rebuild and we start a fishery again and processing the cod and getting into the markets, that we do it in a sustainable manner. We want to offer good quality fish that people will really like.”

 


ONE FISH: RESETTLEMENT
 

Larry Hann’s life as a bus tour operator in St John’s today is worlds apart from the life he knew as a boy, growing up in Cape Freels, about halfway between Twillingate and Bonavista, on the north-east coast of Newfoundland. Here Larry talks about life in a traditional Newfoundland fishing outport community, in the 1950s. And he describes the heart-wrenching experience of leaving behind everything he knew, in the 1960s, during Resettlement—when people living in smaller and struggling outports took cash incentives from the province to leave behind their homes and communities and move to “growth centres,” where better job prospects were promised but not necessarily delivered. 

What are your earliest childhood memories of growing up as the son of a fourth-generation fisher in Cape Freels?
My dad went out onto the ocean, caught the fish and brought it to shore. As a little boy I would place the cod up on the table. And then an older brother would cut the throat and slit it down. And then he would pass it over to my mom. She would crack the head off it and pick the liver out to make cod liver oil. With the head off, my dad would take the bone out, and then he would light-salt the fish. It would be in salt for three or four weeks or more, and then my mum and us boys would take that fish and wash it and lay it on the flake to dry.

Did you want to grow up to be a fisher like your dad?
Well, at that time my dad, like other fishermen, struggled to make a living. The merchants were cheating them—the fisherman was always kept in debt to the merchant. So my dad said to me and my brothers: ‘I want you boys to go to school and get a real job.’ I listened to my dad, and I went to school in Cape Freels—in a one-room school. And then I went to Saint John’s and finished my high school education.

And that was when your parents were resettled on the mainland?
Yes. The resettlement came in the 1960s. Joseph Smallwood, our Premier, saw that the fishery was not doing well, because of foreign overfishing. So he went to the small communities and said, ‘If the majority of you want to move to a larger community, we will give each of you $2,000. But after you move, you can’t go back no more.’

My dad never saw $2,000 in his lifetime. So it was the same as if he’d been offered $2 million. He jumped for it, and we went to St John’s.

So your whole community left at around the same time?
It did.

What was that like?
I went to St John’s at about 15 years old, and they went to a lot of other places. Some of my friends I never saw again. The day we left, it was not a good feeling. It hurt, because you play with your friends every day and then they’re suddenly all gone from you. That’s a hard punch.

When I go back there I reminisce about being a boy growing up in Cape Freels. The houses are mostly empty now, or they fell apart, or they were torn down.

How did your parents handle the move?
Mom accepted it pretty well, ‘cause when she was very young, about 15 or 16, she went to Halifax to work, and later St John’s. She was used to the city. But when my dad got to St John’s, he struggled. He got depressed, because he couldn’t find a job. Remember, he had no education.

What was most difficult for your dad?
Couldn’t fish.

It was all he knew how to do. You took him away from that… well… he never recovered. He died at a very early age. At 61.

That was one thing about the government’s resettlement program: You’re asking someone 55 years of age to go to school and learn new skills, but that person can’t even write his own name.

Once people from the outports realized that Smallwood had given them a bad deal, how did they react?
Outport Newfoundlanders believed that Joey Smallwood was God when he gave them the money, and they thought he could do no wrong. But after they went to Saint John’s and moved around, they really could see what he was. People cursed on Joey Smallwood after resettlement. Then after 20-plus years as Premier, he got voted out.

What could you buy with $2,000 in the early 1960s? Could you buy a house in St John’s?
No. When you went to St John’s you had to pay rent. The money lasted just a few months.

How did your mom and dad pay for things after their money ran out?
My mom worked in a store and she worked at the Grace hospital. My mom had a Grade 8 education, and she was pretty knowledgeable. My dad might occasionally get temporary work… then laid off… temporary work… then laid off…

So what did your dad do during the day, when he was out of work?
You know, not a lot. He’d be in the chair meditating, thinking about Cape Freels, most of the time. Stressed himself out. He was a very unhappy man.

Did he talk about what he was going through?
He’d say to my mom: ‘Lucy, I want to go back to Cape Freels.’ And mom would say, ‘Arthur, you can’t go back there. You took the money.’ Then he’d say, “But I want to go back there. I’ll give the government back the $2,000.”

You have to understand, that’s where he was born; that’s where he was raised; that’s where his roots were. His mom and his dad were buried there; he had property there. Dad wanted to go back to Cape Freels, despite the hardship. He wanted to fish.

 


ONE FISH: THE FEAST

ONE FISH, TWO FISH, GOOD FISH, TRUE FISH
Raymonds Dinner – SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015
 

Chef Jeremy Charles, whom the New York Times calls “a leader in the growing movement to celebrate the cuisine of the North,” opened his kitchen at Raymonds to our guest chefs from North America and Scandinavia, for a spectacular, multi-course dining event: One Fish, Two Fish, Good Fish, True Fish.

Frida Ronge, of vRÅ, Gothenburg, Sweden; Jamie Malone, of Brut, Minneapolis, USA; Magnus Ek, of Oaxen, Krog & Slip, Stockholm, Sweden; Ned Bell, of Four Seasons Vancouver, British Columbia; and Jeremy Charles, Celeste Mah and Sarah Villamere of Raymonds, St John’s collaborated on the seven-course tasting menu, featuring regional sustainable seafood.

By showcasing such ingredients as: sea urchin, diver scallops, snow crab, periwinkle and scallop roe in creative ways—as well as sharing their passion for these ingredients in brief presentations to diners—the chefs made a powerful case for shifting our focus from standard fish choices to more sustainable yet equally delicious alternatives. 

“Hosting this gang was a real treat,” says Jeremy Charles. “It was educational for me and my cooks to see how all these different chefs from different parts of the world deal with the beautiful products we have here—everyone had a new and unique take on everything.”

Here, Jeremy’s guests describe their dishes:

“I used 3 types of oysters: black pearl, deep fried with an emulsion, horseradish, dill and lemon; Treys, served raw, with pickled shalots, ponzu and cucumber; and Sensemone, poached in mirin, sake and soy sauce. I chose to use oyster because it’s a sustainable ingredient all over the world... and I just love oysters!”
—Frida Ronge

“My dish was roasted Sustainable Blue trout from a land-based farm in Nova Scotia. I served it with parsnips, celeriac, partridgeberry and a vanilla beurre noir. I decided to serve land-raised farm fish as a way of speaking about protecting some wild species, by serving responsibly farmed fish. Sustainable Blue is a great farm, doing it the right way.”
—Ned Bell

“The elements of my dish included: raw scallops, cattails, charred ramp leaves, and whey. The raw scallops were in a live tank behind the restaurant, and the quality was incredible. They remained live until about an hour before service. They were incredibly rich and sweet, and I thought they paired well with a sour sauce made of whey and a little pork stock.”
—Jamie Malone

“I chose the cod because it’s a fish that is so strongly connected with Newfoundland for me. I also wanted to use wild ingredients, but at the time of year when we were there, not so much had started to grow, so I used spruce, which is something you can pick all year around and something that I normally use a lot in my kitchen. I chose to use scallop roe, because it was a leftover that nobody else was planning to use.” 
—Magnus Ek


For additional information, visuals or to request an interview with Arlene Stein, Chair, Terroir or to receive more information on Terroir, please contact Renee Lalonde: 

renee.lalonde@rogers.com@reneelalonde11.