Industry Overview

*All landings and value data taken from 2014 DFO statistics


Lobster is harvested along the coast of Nova Scotia by thousands of independent lobster fishermen using baited traps placed on the bottom of the sea. Lobster seasons vary depending on Lobster Fishing Area (LFA). Nova Scotia landed over 51,000mt of lobster worth $570 million in 2014. There are over 160 companies that buy and sell lobster in the province, but only a handful of these companies engage in secondary processing.

Lobster is Nova Scotia's most valuable seafood export and is primarily shipped as a live product. Nearly 60% of Nova Scotia lobster is exported to the U.S., although other important markets include Asia and the European Union. Both inshore and offshore lobster fishing areas are Marine Stewardship Council certified; the inshore lobster trap fishery attained certification in May of 2015.

Lobster landings have been experiencing an upward trend, and remain at one of the highest levels recorded this century. Nova Scotia landings have more than doubled over the past 20 years.


The Sea scallop or giant scallop is an important commercial species of molluscan shellfish in Nova Scotia. This fishery is divided into offshore fleets on Georges Bank with some harvesting occurring on Browns and German Banks, and an inshore fleet in the Bay of Fundy.

Scallops are harvested with dredges which consist of a bag like net of steel mesh that are towed over the sea floor. In 2014, Nova Scotia landed over 63,000mt of scallop worth over $162 million. The vast majority of sea scallops harvested in Nova Scotian waters are exported to the US in fresh or frozen form. Both offshore and inshore scallop fisheries are Marine Stewardship Council certified.

Sea Scallop populations are considered to be at a healthy level.

Snow Crab

The snow crab fishery in Nova Scotia is split between stocks on the Scotian Shelf, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and other northern management areas. Combined, this leads to annual landings over 19,000mt, worth nearly $112 million. The majority of the harvesting and processing capacity is located in North Eastern Nova Scotia. Over 65% of the processed catch is exported to the United States as a boiled and sectioned product famous for its excellent taste and cutting-edge quality. Both the Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence Snow Crab trap fisheries are Marine Stewardship Council certified.

Although there are some year-to-year fluctuations in stock status, the fishery has generally been stable.

Northern Shrimp

The Northern pink shrimp is the most abundant shrimp species in Canada's North Atlantic waters. The directed fishery uses shrimp trap/pot and trawl. There are 15 managed Shrimp fishing areas within Canadian waters from Nova Scotia's East coast to the frigid waters off Newfoundland up to the Davis Strait.

Nova Scotia landed nearly 25,000mt of shrimp in 2014, worth $73 million. The shrimp is processed in plants in Atlantic Canada and Greenland into a variety of fresh, frozen, cooked and raw forms, into products ranging from sushi, peeled, cocktail, and salad industrial blocks, and is exported worldwide. The Canadian Northern Shrimp fishery is Marine Stewardship Council certified.

Some Northern pink shrimp fisheries have been in a state of decline over the past few years, while others appear to be stable.


Atlantic Halibut are one of the largest flatfishes in the world. In Nova Scotia, halibut are harvested in the Scotian Shelf and Gulf NS regions by longline, and some is taken as bycatch by bottom trawls. Halibut are a commercially valuable fish, and Nova Scotia landed over 2,000mt worth $30 million in 2014. While there is some processing capacity in Nova Scotia, the majority of halibut is shipped unprocessed to the U.S. The Canadian Atlantic Halibut fishery is Marine Stewardship Council certified.

Atlantic Halibut stocks in both the Scotian Shelf and Gulf regions have been expanding in recent years.


The haddock fishery in Nova Scotia consists of a multi-species fishery in the Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy, and a directed fishery on George's Bank in which the stock is shared with US fleets. Nova Scotia dominates the Canadian haddock fishery with annual landings of nearly 16,000mt in 2014, worth over $20 million.

While there is some processing capacity in Nova Scotia, the majority of haddock is shipped unprocessed to the U.S. Haddock is popular on maritime menus and can be deep fried, pan fried, baked, poached or smoked. The Canadian haddock fishery is Marine Stewardship Council Certified.

Haddock spawning stocks have been increasing over the last decade.


Atlantic herring are small, silvery fish also known as sea herring, sardine, bloater, kipper (when smoked) and Digby chick. In Nova Scotia, herring are harvested in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off Southwest Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy using purse seine, gillnet and weir. The Atlantic herring is a very important commercial fishery in Nova Scotia.

In 2014, landings were approximately 45,000mt, a value of $16 million. The Atlantic herring is fished for both food and bait and the catch may be exported smoked, fresh, frozen, pickled or for their roe.

Processing capacity is concentrated in Southwestern Nova Scotia, and products from the herring fishery are shipped to markets in Japan, US and the Caribbean. Only the herring gillnet fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is Marine Stewardship Council certified.

The spawning stock biomass estimates in the different Atlantic herring stocks range from critical, cautious to healthy.


Swordfish are highly migratory fish ranging throughout the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. In Nova Scotia, the primary Swordfish fishery uses pelagic longlines and extends from Georges and Browns Bank along the entire edge of the Scotian Shelf. Swordfish are also harvested by harpoon along the edges of Georges and Browns Banks.

Nova Scotia dominates the Canadian Swordfish fishery, with landings of over 1,600mt worth $13 million in 2014. Swordfish are exported unprocessed to the United States. Both the longline and harpoon fishery in Atlantic Canada are Marine Stewardship Council Certified.

A 10-year recovery plan was introduced in 1999 to rebuild the North Atlantic Swordfish stock. The stock is now considered healthy.

Silver Hake

Silver hake is a bottom dwelling member of the cod family occurring in the northwest Atlantic from cape Hatteras to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Nova Scotia fishery for silver hake occurs on the Scotian Shelf. Nova Scotia lands approximately 8,000mt of hake yearly at a value of almost $7 million. The primary fishing method for silver hake is bottom trawl, and the majority of hake is exported to the US unprocessed.

Stock biomass of Silver Hake is near an all-time high, and is expected to decline in the next few years due to natural mortality.


The Tuna fishery in Nova Scotia consists of two primary fisheries: the Bluefin Tuna Fishery which takes place in Southwest Nova Scotia, St Margaret's Bay, and Canso/ Southern Gulf of St Lawrence regions; and the Yellow Fin, Bigeye, and Albacore Tuna fisheries which are conducted by the Swordfish longline fleet. Bluefin Tuna are caught primarily on rod and reel, baited line or in a fish trap.

Nova Scotia landed nearly 600mt of tuna worth over $6 million in 2014. The majority of Tuna is exported unprocessed to markets in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. Nova Scotia is also undergoing a resurgence of the Bluefin Charter Fishing Industry and is quickly becoming popular again as a destination to angle for large Bluefin Tuna.

Recent Stock assessments for Bluefin Tuna in the Western Atlantic suggest that this species is stable and slightly increasing.