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FFAW Opposes Offshore Proposal to Put Draggers on Pre-Spawning Grounds of Northern Cod

04/12/2019

MEDIA RELEASE: FFAW Opposes Offshore Proposal to Put Draggers on Pre-Spawning Grounds of Northern Cod

Thursday’s Groundfish Advisory Meeting held in St. John’s heard proposals from various stakeholders on the 2019 management approach for northern cod. The most concerning proposal came from the Atlantic Groundfish Council, which represents offshore interests in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Council proposed a plan that would have offshore draggers fishing on pre-spawning grounds of northern cod. The recommendation was strongly opposed by FFAW-Unifor representatives.

“It is absolutely disingenuous for offshore companies to call for caution and reduced quotas in northern cod while at the same time proposing to fish on pre-spawning grounds,” said Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor. “Using draggers to fish on pre-spawning cod grounds significantly contributed to the collapse of cod in the 1990s and cannot play in role in the future of northern cod.”

The Atlantic Groundfish Council proposal included recommendations that the offshore sector harvest from November 15th to February 15th and would use gear types that include mobile gear. Northern cod pre-spawning aggregations occur from January to March. Using draggers to fish on these pre-spawning aggregations would have detrimental impacts on the northern cod stock.

Based on historical data northern cod are highly aggregated along the shelf edge in January and February, which is why the offshore fleets targeted these dense overwintering and pre-spawning aggregations prior to the cod collapse. These fish are tightly packed and extremely vulnerable. Historically, researchers used a lower catch rate limit of 1.5 tonnes per hour to identify commercially significant concentrations. These catch rates show how densely pack and vulnerable cod are at this time of year. 

“The offshore proposal is not just irresponsible, it runs counter to the federal government’s commitment to allocate the first 115,000 tonnes of northern cod to inshore harvesters and Indigenous groups,” continued Sullivan. “We intend to hold the federal government to that commitment and incrementally build a sustainable northern cod fishery that benefits coastal communities as the stock rebuilds.”

FFAW-Unifor is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council (NLGIDC). The group is a non-profit association comprised of inshore fishers and processors with a mandate to coordinate the transition from shellfish to groundfish opportunities with particular emphasis on cod. The NLGIDC proposal for the 2019 northern cod management approach is available here.

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For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode, FFAW-Unifor Communications, 709-743-4445, cglode@ffaw.net.