Fish is a complicated entity in Newfoundland and Labrador.
It’s bound up with history, culture, the town and the bay, the merchant and the fisher. It’s one of the province’s greatest assets and, since the 1992 moratorium, one of its weakest links.
Currently, Newfoundland and Labrador’s fisheries are export-oriented and provincial legislation prohibits the direct sale of fish by harvesters to consumers.
No wonder that the important role of fish in the province’s food security hasn’t been addressed earlier.
An initiative from Too Big To Ignore, a global research network and knowledge mobilization partnership established to elevate the profile of small-scale fisheries and address their marginalization, is set to change that.
Great Fish for a Change is a province-wide campaign designed to promote discussions around the value of fish for the province’s food security. Community members will be invited to enjoy an evening meal of fish and seafood and will be encouraged to share stories and exchange signature fish recipes.
“These events will offer an opportunity for dialogue and experience sharing about food security and a fisheries way of life, as well as a chance to talk about community health and wellbeing, using local fish dishes as a connecting point,” said Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, project director for Too Big To Ignore and a faculty member in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts.
As a protein that is produced in the wild and also considered a commodity, fish holds a unique space in the public food system. According to federal legislation the fish off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador is publicly owned and managed by the Government of Canada for the public good.
Petty Harbour will be the site of the first Great Fish for a Change event on Aug. 22, which will be presented in partnership with Fishing for Success.
As momentum for the event builds, further partners are being confirmed including the Food Security Network of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove Tourism Association, the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium and local churches and seniors’ groups.
Fishing for Success is a non-profit organization dedicated to living, sharing and celebrating the traditional fishing knowledge and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This is a pathway for youth to be involved in the fishery and in their own heritage,” said Fishing for Success executive director Kimberly Orren. “It’s a changed fishery with policies and regulations to protect fishers which have had the negative impact of keeping youth away from the traditional fishery.
In Newfoundland cod is synonymous with fish but the Aug. 22 event will also feature the use of two other key species.
“There are so many regulations attached to cod but of course there is other accessible fish protein,” said Ms. Orren who is planning to highlight caplin and trout during the Petty Harbour event.
Planning is in process for similar events on the Burin Peninsula, and in Bonavista, New-Wes-Valley, Stephenville and Forteau.
“We will document all the Great Fish for a Change events in the form of essays, photos and on film in order to extend the conversation,” said Dr. Chuenpagdee. “We hope eventually to identify opportunities for enhancing fish as part of food security and nutrition in the province, which would in turn lead towards a better integration of fish into future regional and national discussion about policy on fisheries sustainability.”
A complete schedule of Great Fish for a Change events is available on the Too Big To Ignore website (www.toobigtoignore.net).