Unions speak out after DFO cut to northern cod.
The federal government’s management plan for this year’s northern cod stewardship fishery is being blasted by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) released the plan for the fishery on Tuesday, June 12, setting the quota at 9,500 tonnes, down 25 per cent from last year.
The decision comes despite the fact the most recent stock assessment showed the stewardship fishery had no impact on the stock’s trajectory, according to FFAW-Unifor.
“This decision ignores socioeconomic considerations for hundreds of communities in our province and the thousands of people who rely on coastal resources,” FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan said in a release.
“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 decisionmaking.”
The inshore northern cod stewardship fishery is sustainably fished, according to FFAWUnifor, with a harvest rate of less than three per cent.
FFAW-Unifor pointed out in its release 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 the resource and would not impede stock rebuilding.
Natural mortality rates, meanwhile, are said to be at a high level. The union suggested more research must be completed to understand why.
“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,” Sullivan said.
“As it stands, this management plan will leave the inshore harvesters and coastal communities shut out of the fishery of the future.”
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL), meanwhile, expressed its dissatisfaction with Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc in light of the northern cod management plan, calling for him to resign due to his poor handling of problems in the fishery.
“Twenty-six years after the northern cod moratorium and the federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans still isn’t prepared to lead and do what needs to be done,” FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary said in a release issued by his organization on June 13.
DFO’s scientists said earlier this year that the northern cod stock had declined about 30 per cent from 2017-2018. Not only does the stock remain in the critical zone, but has suffered further decline that’s likely to continue through 2019 — even with zero fishing effort, FISH-NL indicated.
In mid-April, the group called on Ottawa to take immediate action on northern cod.
They suggested introducing a freeze on all scheduled offshore seismic activity off the province’s east coast, supporting the taking of the entire seal quota, the introduction of tags in the food fishery, and the ordering of an independent review of federal fisheries management in the Newfoundland and Labrador region.
None of the recommendations have been implemented, however, FISH-NL acknowledged.
“LeBlanc is blaming harvesters and harvesters alone for the decline in northern cod when his own scientists say that’s not the case, and our seven MPs are just as bad for letting the minister get away with it.”