Big Value in Atlantic Canada’s Small-Scale Fisheries Finds New Report | Ecology Action Centre

Big Value in Atlantic Canada’s Small-Scale Fisheries Finds New Report

Independent fishermen can increase the value from small-scales fisheries and capitalize on an increasing number of consumers who will pay more for seafood when they know who caught it, where and how, finds Small Scale, Big Value: Creating a Value Chain to Support Atlantic Canada's Sustainable Fisheries, a report released today. Fishermen, processors, distributors and chefs gathered with market specialists for two days in October, 2013 in a workshop organized by the Ecology Action Centre; the report summarizes their findings.

“I’m willing to pay more for high quality seafood when I know that it was caught by owner-operator fishermen using low impact gear”, explains Dan Donavan, workshop participant and owner of Hooked Inc., a Toronto based fish shop. “The right distribution system just isn’t set up yet though, so it’s hard for me to access this fish, with most of it now bound for the export market or sold at low prices for lobster bait”.

Small-scale fishermen in Atlantic Canada are increasingly collaborating and are finding new approaches towards a shared vision for the region’s independent fisheries. These initiatives include improvements to seafood distribution and marketing, according to the report.

“Small-scale branding is crucial,” said Phillip Docker from ShanDaph Oysters during the workshop. “The personal story of the individual owner-operators must be told and promoted.”

The report’s five key recommendations for increasing the value of Atlantic Canada’s fisheries are:

  • New Markets. Fishermen need to connect to targeted markets, including locally and in Canada, which recognize - and are willing to pay a premium for - high quality, responsibly harvested fish and seafood. 
  • Building links.  Atlantic Canada doesn’t have a regional distribution network for seafood, leaving small-scale fishermen stuck when it comes to getting their products to the regional markets that demand them. Participants agreed to explore the idea of a regional “seafood hub” that uses online tools to market and manage products, along with third-party transportation services to consolidate and distribute seafood.
  • New Relationships. Small-scale fisheries are getting squeezed out of commodity markets, as vertically integrated companies using high volume-low value fishing methods increasingly control market levers like price and quota access. While recognizing that there have often been tensions between fishermen and the buyers, processors, and distributors along the seafood supply chain, everyone agreed that is time to forge new and innovative relationships.
  • Values-based branding. The group agreed that current seafood sustainability certification standards fail to capture the full range of values represented by Atlantic Canada’s small-scale, community-based fisheries. Regional branding schemes would highlight the many values in Atlantic Canada’s fisheries, and participants agreed to keep moving toward a more regional approach.
  • Sharing Stories. Small-scale fishermen should do a better job sharing their success stories, both with other fishing communities and the public at large.

“The workshop showed that we need to build more value, think in different ways and breathe new life into our important rural fishing industries and coastal communities. This is directly in line with the recommendations of the recently released Ivany report, Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action For Nova Scotians” explains Dave Adler, Manager of Off The Hook Community Supported Fishery. “We’re excited to find ways to improve the regional and domestic distribution of seafood from Atlantic Canada and make sustainably harvested seafood more accessible for Canadian consumers.


For more information:

David Adler, Manager, Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery



Katie Schleit, Marine Campaign Coordinator

Ecology Action Centre



Dan Donavan, Hooked Inc.


Philip Docker, ShanDaph Oysters

+902 928-8581


Download the report here

See similar posts under: