Fogo Island Fish
“The fish is so much cleaner, fresher. The texture – you can still get a beautiful crispy skin, but the flesh has texture but almost melts in your mouth. It’s something I’ve never experienced before.”
That is what Chef Lora Kirk from Ruby WatchCo has to say about the hand-line caught cod from Fogo Island Fish, and this unparalleled quality is a huge reason why we are now partnering with Fogo Island Fish to distribute their cod and cod products!!
Fogo Island is a small island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland & Labrador, located in the Labrador current, so yes, you’re right, that’s not exactly local Ontario product. But as you know, nor are we very close to the ocean! So in terms of being local, Fogo Island Fish is some of the closest ocean caught fish we have access to. It’s ‘Canadian fish, for Canadians.’ We feel strongly that Fogo Island Fish is a perfect fit with the mandate we have at 100km Foods and is why we are so excited to begin distributing their products.
Fogo Island Fish began as a small pilot project pioneered by Anthony (Tony) Cobb and Janice Thomson, his wife. Tony’s family has been fishing for cod in the waters off the coast of Fogo Island, Newfoundland for the past two hundred years.
In the 1960’s, however, factory fishing changed the game considerably. What is now an oft-repeated story, smaller fishermen using traditional hook-and-line methods were then edged out of cod fishing as a livelihood, not to mention, factory fishing on that scale drastically depleted cod stocks. Tony’s father was one of the fishers who had to quit fishing in the 60’s and start another career to support his family. Thus, Tony is one of the first in eight generations who is not a fisher, though he still maintains a strong connection to Fogo Island and his family history. Since 1992, there has been a moratorium on the cod fishery. A small stewardship fishery remains, but it’s still been difficult for local fishers to once again make a viable living catching cod.
Why start Fogo Island Fish?
This is why Tony and Janice wanted to use their understanding of the difficulties faced by the fishers to start Fogo Island Fish as a social enterprise. In the first year of the project, they enlisted thirty-three fishers to partake. This past year, they raised that number to fifty. Here are some reasons why what they do is awesome:
- The fishers only go out 5 miles from the coast in small day boats, where they catch 500-600 lbs of fresh fish per day, in sight of home.
- The cod is cold (as in, really cold) water fish – the currents heading down the coast of Labrador are the same that bring icebergs in from Greenland.
- The fish is caught just once per year (in the fall) which means the fish are at their physiological peak.
- The cod is caught using hand lines, bled at sea, and flash frozen to maintain peak freshness. Hand lining also means there is no by-catch.
- Since they are so close to the island, the cod is processed within hours of being caught by cooperatively owned processing facility on Fogo Island. That’s where they filet, debone and package the cod, which employs more people from the island.
- These products are available to chefs only and come direct from Fogo Island – that means the fishers are paid double the market rates for fish, because there are fewer intermediaries.
- Any surplus from the enterprise gets reinvested on Fogo Island through the Shorefast Foundation (a federally registered charity).
All of these are reasons to feel good about purchasing the Fogo Island Fish – we feel that their ethical fishing methods, time of year to catch fish, paying the fishers double, creating local processing jobs and commitment to providing the highest quality fish set a benchmark for other to strive for and that’s why they are a great fit for 100km Foods.
Not to mention, the quality and taste is really unlike cod fished from other parts of the world! We will be carrying the whole fillets (deboned and skin-on, 16oz-32oz), cod cheeks, cod tongues, and cod chunks. Please have a quick read below of the thawing instructions:
The Cod Thaw – Fogo Island Instructions
- Place the filets on a sheet with towels underneath to soak up any moisture that will accumulate.
- Place in fridge to slack thaw, do not cover.
- Let the fan in the fridge help dry out the moisture while it slack thaws.
- Let thaw under refrigeration for a minimum of 12 hours, changing the towels as needed, at least twice is recommended. Total time to thaw will depend on your fridge and the size of fillets you are working with.
- If preferred, scales can easily be removed from the fillet using the back of a Chefs knife.
- We recommend leaving the skin on the cod as it helps retain the juices while cooking for a tender moist product.
- After thawed, portion to desired size, store in contains with more fresh towels or paper towels.
Aging!! After fish is completely thawed, leave in the fridge a further 12 hours, to properly age the fish. If you age it longer, that is even better.
We can’t wait to see what dishes you come up with using this traditionally, sustainably hand-line caught cod!!
Many thanks to Janice and Tony for providing the pictures and information for this post.
By: Genrys Goodchild