ST. JOHN’S, NL - Today, the Atlantic Fisheries Fund (AFF) announced funding to support experimental fishing that will lay the groundwork for a sustainable redfish fishery for the future of coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. This harvester-initiated project is being led by FFAW-Unifor in close collaboration with the 4R3Pn fleets in the Gulf of St. Lawrence where the redfish stock is found.
Along with other species of groundfish such as northern cod and halibut, redfish is a rebuilding species that is showing an exceptional rate of growth in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region. In the 80’s and early 90’s, redfish provided significant economic opportunities for fish harvesters and plant workers in our province, for example, contributing five months of processing work annually to plant workers in Harbour Breton.
“This project is providing us with an unprecedented opportunity to build a sustainable fishery from the ground up that has the potential to provide substantial economic benefits for communities in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
Rendell Genge, fish harvester from Anchor Point and 4R fleet chair, came to the Union in late 2016 with the idea to build the new redfish fishery using sustainable methods to reduce bycatch and undersize catch.
“Redfish species have been seeing very good recruitment in our area, so we saw an opportunity here to build a new fishery that would help our fleet as we transition to an environment less favourable for shellfish,” said Genge. “We know the new fishery is not going to be like it was in the past. We need to find a way to release the small fish and minimize our bycatch of other species, and this experimental fishery is going to give us the chance to test out different methods, so we can do things right from the start,” he explained.
Work undertaken by DFO science discovered the redfish stock is actually comprised of two different species and, if separated, will allow harvesters to specifically target the more abundant species, S. mentella. Industry stakeholders unanimously supported efforts to demonstrate that the species can be identified in the catch and that the more abundant species can be targeted. This approach would allow for much higher overall catch, while protecting the less abundant species.
“One of the goals of this experimental fishery is to show that if we can reliably target S. mentella. The two species seem to separate by depth and area. With knowledge where and when the two species are found, harvesters could target the more abundant species. This is one of the key questions we are testing,” said Dr. Erin Carruthers, FFAW-Unifor Fisheries Scientist.
The funding provided by AFF is contributing towards testing different gear types that aim to reduce bycatch of other species as well as to reduce the occurrence of undersize catch. Specifically, over $700,000 in total project costs will go directly to fishing equipment and charter costs for participating harvesters. Participating harvesters and the Union are contributing the remainder of the costs towards this project, for a total estimated project cost of $881,938.
For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode, FFAW-Unifor Communications at 709-743-4445 or [email protected].