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Northern Cod Management Plan Threatens Future of Inshore Groundfish Fishery

06/13/2018

ST. JOHN’S, NL - Yesterday evening, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) released the management plan for this year’s Northern Cod stewardship fishery. While the most recent stock assessment showed that the modest stewardship fishery had no impact on the trajectory of the stock, the federal government has set the quota at 9500 tons, a dramatic reduction of 25% from last year’s fishery.

“This decision ignores socio-economic considerations for hundreds of communities in our province and the thousands of people who rely on coastal resources. It also runs counter to the federal government’s own proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act, which explicitly add the need for socio-economic considerations in fisheries management decision-making,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.

The inshore northern cod stewardship fishery is sustainably fished, with an extremely conservative harvest rate of less than 3%. By comparison, Iceland’s spawning stock biomass (SSB) for cod is just over double that of the 2JK3L fishing area, yet their harvest rate in relation to the SSB is 26% - over 27 times that of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

“Coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador rely on the inshore fishery. Without it, outmigration will continue and rural life will be a thing of the past, with no industry to support it. Northern Cod, if managed responsibly and collaboratively, represents a significant opportunity for a viable and sustainable fishery of the future,” said Nancy Bowers, fish harvester and deputy-Mayor of Beachside.

The 2018 stock assessment indicated that fishing mortality rates in the most recent years are among the lowest levels observed in the 35-year time series for this resource and would not impede stock rebuilding. In contrast, natural mortality rates are said to be at a high level and it is imperative that more research be done to understand the causes, particularly with regards to predation by seal populations.

Earlier this year, the Newfoundland and Labrador Groundfish Industry Development Council (NL-GIDC) submitted a proposal to DFO to scale back the already ultraconservative fishery. The modest proposal would have reduced weekly catch limits and reduced the number of weeks the stewardship fishery was open. DFO has gone a step further by reducing the total stewardship fishery quota to 9500 tons.

“As northern cod rebuilds, very modest increases in the stewardship fishery can simultaneously build capacity on land without having any significant impact on the trajectory of the stock. As it stands, this management plan will leave the inshore harvesters and coastal communities shut out of the fishery of the future,” concluded Sullivan.

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

(Photo credit to Neil Ever Osborne)