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Canadian groundfish landings down but market said to be strengthening.

Canadian Groundfish Landings Down, But Market Said to be Strengthening

Canada will have less groundfish to sell this year, but may well earn more money from it because of increased competition in Europe and elsewhere. With an expected value of some C$ 1 billion, exports will likely account for C$ 900 million. Indeed, groundfish will bring in 30% of all revenues realized from seafood sales abroad.

That was the message of Nilo Cachero, president of the Canadian Association of Fish Exporters, at the Seafood 90 Japan Conference held in Kyoto.

Groundfish landings have declined steadily since 1986, Cachero said, from a high of 824,000 tons that year to an estimated 740,000 in 1989. This year, the catch will be no more than 720,000, and perhaps as low as 690,000, he predicted.

But the reduced Canadian catch only reflects an overall decline in North Atlantic landings by the four dominant fishing nations (the others being Iceland, Norway and Denmark) from a high of 2.315 million tons in 1986 to a projected 1.8 million this year.

"The expected supply of North Atlantic species will likely be so short that any amount of frozen fillets and blocks produced from these species will still find strong markets this year," declared Cachero. Premium quality cod block prices had already passed $1.70 in the United Kingdom as of mid-February, he noted.

Cod accounts for more than half of Canada's groundfish landings, but its tonnage has declined steadily from 477,000 in 1985 to an estimated 420,000 last year, and the projection for this year is only 350,000 to 370,000 tons. Because stocks are believed depleted, the 1990 maximum quota has been cut to 416,000 from 481,000.

Estimated landings last year for flounder and sole (60,000 tons), pollock (44,000), haddock (26,000) and hake (13,000) were also down, Cachero said, and quotas for all but hake have been reduced for 1990. But redfish landings, at 77,000, were up; so were those for turbot (Greenland halibut), at 16,000 - quotas have therefore been boosted to 142,000 and 56,000 tons, respectively.

Underutilized Species

In addition to redfish and turbot, he said, "Another area where we plan to expand production is in the development of what we refer to as underutilized species." Silver hake is the most important of these; last year's landings totaled only 1,000 tons, but this year's quota is 45,000. Other underutilized species include argentines, roundnose grenadiers and white hake; they accounted for 4,000 tons last year, and 10,000 are allowed for this year.

Because of the overall shortfall in North Atlantic landings, and the resulting tight market in Europe, Cachero isn't terribly worried about the recent decline in fish and seafood consumption in the United States, traditionally Canada's dominant market. Per capita consumption there fell to 15 kilograms in 1988 from 15.4 in 1987, and he doubts it recovered last year or will this year. In particular, premium-priced fresh fillets seem to be losing their market in the U.S.

Between 115,000 and 140,000 tons of Canada's exports during the last few years have been in frozen fillets - individual or block. This year, Cachero said, "It is likely that less groundfish will be processed in dressed or fresh fillet forms, and more in frozen fillet and block forms." Most of this output will go to the U.S., but Canada will also be looking to Europe, and even Japan, for sales of value-added products - exports to Japan have jumped from $12 million to $40 million since 1985.

Sales to Japan include not only Pacific groundfish like halibut, black cod and rockfish, but other seafood items like herring roe, capelin roe, lobster, crab, shrimp, salmon, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Although Pacific coast landings are much smaller than those on the Atlantic coast, they are at least stable - about 60,000 tons last year, with the same projected for this year. But Cachero said value-added products from the Atlantic coast are also being targeted at Japan.

Sales to the U.S. are expected to increase, despite a stagnant market there and higher prices, because American seafood buyers may have no place else to go. Iceland, Norway and Denmark are cutting back on exports to the U.S. - Iceland shipped less than 14% of its exports to the States last year, vs. 38% in 1983. American buyers will be bidding up the price of frozen fillets and blocks in competition with European buyers, he predicted.

One problem facing Canadian exporters: they have taken a $100 million beating in the last couple of years due to high interest rates and an overvalued Canadian dollar. "This year, assuming a slightly devalued Canadian dollar on the average, we expect to recover some of that loss," Cachero said.

Table : Canada: Key Metric Tonnage

Declining Landings Due to Declining Quotas
 Species '89 Quota '90 Quota
Atlantic Cod 481,000 416,000
Flounders/Sole 87,000 82,000
Haddock 31,000 27,000
Pollock 48,000 23,000

Increasing Landings Due to Under-Exploited Quotas
 Species '89 Landings '90 Quota
Redfish 77,000 142,000
Turbot 16,000 56,000
Silver Hake 1,000 45,000

Table : Canadian Groundfish Exports, By Form
 (Thousand metric tonnes, product weight)
 1986 1987 1988 (*)1989
Dressed/Unprocessed 36 24 32 32
Fresh Fillets 21 15 23 18
Frozen Fillets 70 77 52 57
Fillet Blocks 59 60 63 58
Dried/Wet Salted 38 33 30 35
Total 224 219 200 200

(*) Estimate
 Canadian Groundfish Exports, by Main Market
 (Thousand metric tonnes, product weight)
 1986 1987 1988 (*)1989

Total USA

- Mostly Fresh/Frozen 1987 187 164 161

Rest of World
 - Salted 29 25 26 30
 - Fresh/Frozen 8 7 10 9
Total 224 219 200 200

(*) Estimate

PHOTO : Nilo Cachero, president of the Canadian Association of Fish Exporters.
COPYRIGHT 1990 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Canadian seafood industry
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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