Fresh Groundfish From Boston Sword & Tuna
What the rest of the world calls "whitefish," typically independent New Englanders call "groundfish." The historical explanation is simple enough: from colonial days these species were thought to dwell close to the bottom, or "ground," of the ocean. The species of fresh groundfish we handle at BST, then, are: cod, haddock, flounder, pollock, and tilapia – with cod and haddock making up the bulk of our supply.
The New England groundfish supply is well stocked and available year round, but landings will vary depending on the time of year. Haddock supply, for instance, is at its pinnacle during April, May, and June; while cod, on the other hand, is landed in relatively even volumes throughout the year. Naturally, landings are dependent on weather conditions and storms, which are more frequent in the winter, and substantially reduce landings.
Managing New England’s fresh groundfish stocks is a complex undertaking for fishery biologists. Groundfish is made of mixed species, and due to species like cod seeing huge reductions in their landings, the fishery needs to be managed. As a result, fishermen are not able to catch their full quota of plentiful species such as haddock. Fortunately, though, advances in net design and other new technologies may soon allow fishermen to target individual species more effectively.
While fresh groundfish are caught off New England using a variety of fishing gears, boats towing trawl nets produce the majority of the landings. New England trawlers, or “draggers” as they are often called, make trips that usually last seven to ten days. The quality of wholesale groundfish from these boats is normally excellent, due to nearly all these boats will gutting, bleeding, and icing their fish right on board at sea.
Although cod once dominated the groundfish supply in the Northwest Atlantic with landings of three million tons in the the 1970s, cod stocks have been greatly depleted over the past twenty years, and landings are now less than 25,000 metric tons annually.In fact, moratorium was initiated in Canada in 1972 in effort to rebuild these rapidly reduced cod stocks. Despite these depleted cod stocks, however, other groundfish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic are in much better shape. Haddock stocks off the coast of New England, for example, have been seeing record high levels.
A major reason the haddock population has emerged in the last few decades is due to their mass reproductive capabilities. An average sized female has the ability to produce over 800,000 eggs while some may even exceed three million annually. In addition, a major reason for their population comeback is due to the adoption of a catch shares management program, which limits harvest quotas to only a fraction of sustainable limits.