How Newfoundland Seafood is Fished

Newfoundland Lobster (Atlantic Lobster)

How is it fished?
Lobster fishing in Newfoundland is carried out in small, open boats, typically near shore in waters up to 65ft (20m) in depth. Fishermen use traps made of wood or wire that are baited and submerged on the ocean floor to catch their lobster. One or more traps may be attached to a line with the line marked at the sea surface by the use of floats. Lobsters are attracted to the bait through a small opening in the trap. Once inside the trap, larger lobsters are unable to escape and are captured live by the fishermen when their traps are pulled to surface. Smaller lobsters, fish and crab are able to escape through a hatch in the trap.

The lobster fishery in Newfoundland is managed very well. Lobster can only be harvested from around the 20th of April until mid July in the province and the season opening/closing times vary for different fishing areas within this time period. This is done to limit catch but also to ensure that only lobsters with hard shells are caught. It should be noted that lobsters shed their shells in order to grow (a process called molting). This takes place in summer months and the Newfoundland lobster fishery is closed during the time period that this occurs. There are also restrictions on the lobster size (a carapace length of 3.25ins or more is required) and an established rule that egg-bearing female lobsters must be returned to the sea. There are also controls in place on the number of licensed fishing vessels and the number of traps that can be used by each vessel. Fishermen also engage in scientific data collection to allow for effective management of the resource.

When lobsters are removed from the traps, they are measured to ensure that they meet the minimum size requirement. Undersized lobsters and egg-bearing females are returned to the ocean. Rubber bands are placed around each lobster’s claws to ensure safety and quality during storage and shipping.

How does it look and taste when cooked?
When cooked, the shell of Newfoundland lobster will appear bright orange-red in color and the meat will be white with red traces. The meat has a texture that is firm/fibrous with the claw meat being more tender than the meat inside the tail section. Newfoundland lobster has a sweet, mild taste. Due to the cold waters that it is harvested from, Newfoundland lobster is uniquely sweeter and yields more meat than lobsters caught in other parts of North America. The meat from Newfoundland lobster is low in fat and carbohydrates and high in protein making it a healthy food choice.

Newfoundland Snow Crab (Atlantic Snow Crab)

How is it fished?
The Newfoundland snow crab fishery is a highly managed resource. This fishery targets only adult hard-shelled male crab and is size restricted (a carapace width of 9.5cm (3.75in) or more for male crab is required). The landing of female crab is illegal. Snow crab is fished using large meshed traps that may take the form of a cone, a pyramid or a rectangle. The traps are baited and set on sandy or muddy bottoms in water depths ranging from 50m (164ft) to 600m (1968.5ft). Vessels used in this fishing industry are almost always less than 20m (65ft) in length. The mesh of the traps is designed such that the minimum mesh size is 13.5cm (5.3in). This size is set to allow females (which are small in size) as well as smaller male crabs to escape. If caught, it is required that females and undersized males are released back to the ocean alive. It should be noted that crabs lose their shells and become soft-shelled until they grow a new shell (a process called molting). This process also has an impact on the crab fishery. Typically in larger areas, grids are established to monitor the incidence of soft-shelled crabs that are caught. If a large number of soft-shelled crabs are caught in any particular grid, then the crab fishery is closed for the rest of the season in that grid. The threshold for season closure in any given grid is usually when 20% of the catch in that grid consists of soft-shelled crabs. To further enhance management of the resource license holders are allotted an assigned quota for the season and restrictions are placed on the number of traps that can be set.

How does it look and taste when cooked?
When cooked, the shell of Newfoundland snow crab legs is bright orange-red in colour. The meat has a snowy white appearance with traces of red and its texture is fibrous. The taste can best be described as sweet and delicate. Newfoundland snow crab meat is an excellent source of protein, is low in saturated fat and is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, making it a food of high nutritional value.

Newfoundland Codfish (Atlantic Codfish)

How is it fished?
A fishing moratorium was imposed on the Newfoundland cod fishing industry in 1992 after years of overfishing and mismanagement of the resource depleted the cod stocks significantly. In the 20+ years since the moratorium was imposed, there are signs that the cod fishery is rebounding but strict restrictions remain in place. Currently, cod fishing is carried out in two ways in Newfoundland: 1. A recreational fishery for residents and non-residents at assigned periods each year and 2. A limited number of quotas are given to fishermen to fish cod with small vessels for commercial purposes, also at specific times during the year. Commercial fishermen use gill nets and trawls to harvest their cod while recreational fishers are only permitted to use hook-and-line techniques.

How does it look and taste when cooked?
Newfoundland Codfish comes in filleted form with its skin removed. It has white, flaky flesh that has a mild flavour to it. This fish ranks high on any fish lover’s list. Cod is an excellent source of protein and is also a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Its consumption has been shown to have a number of different health benefits.

Newfoundland Salt Codfish (Atlantic Salt Codfish)

Newfoundland salt codfish is simply codfish that has been preserved by salting and drying. Prior to its consumption the salted cod must be soaked in cold fresh water for 1-3 days to desalt it. The water should be changed 2-3 times per day. The number of days for desalting depends on personal taste preference and tolerance for salt. It is very common for the fish to be desalted for only one day in Newfoundland with the water changed twice during that time period. When cooked after one day of desalting, the fish will have a modest, salty taste that is a well loved and a well renowned part of Newfoundland cuisine. It should be noted that the sodium content of salt fish is high. If sodium intake is a big concern then consideration should be given to desalting the fish for longer than the one-day period that is common in Newfoundland. Other options include to consume a smaller portion and to avoid eating other high sodium foods on the same day that you consume this fish.

Newfoundland Halibut (Atlantic Halibut)

How is it fished?
Newfoundland Halibut is fished off the Southwest coast of Newfoundland by small fishing vessels up to 65 feet (20m) in length. It is an inshore fishery that uses a bottom longline (rope) that is baited with hooks and anchored along the bottom of the ocean floor. This longline is marked at the sea surface by the use of a float and a flagpole at each end of the line. Halibut is one of the largest flatfish in the world weighing as much as 700lbs (320kgs).

How does it look and taste when cooked?
The meat of Newfoundland Halibut is white in colour with a firm yet tender texture. It is lean with very few bones and has a mild, sweet flavour to it. Its skin, which is grayish/brown in colour, is also edible. Newfoundland Halibut is an excellent low fat source of protein and an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, making it a wise nutritional choice. It ranks high on any fish lover’s list.