Time to change the cod fishery
The recent news of fish plant closures and talk of the importation of foreign workers; of annual halibut quotas being caught in one day while other fishermen lose their lives fishing halibut in the dead of winter; of limited quotas of cod with catch rates higher than they were in past years when fish were deemed to be plenty.
Those headlines and others like it indicate there is a serious problem with the management of fish harvesting in this province.
Here are some news clippings/facts I’ve read in the past year.
• Oceanex is having a new, state-of-theart container ship being constructed, a vessel that will be launched in Bremerhaven, Germany, this year.
• Costco is selling semi-dry cod for $17 per kilogram, or about $865 per quintal.
• The consumption of salt cod in Portugal, Spain and the West Indies is still quite high.
• Since the advent of container traffic, goods can be sent anywhere in the world for between 40 and 50 cents per pound.
• A quintal of dry cod can be produced from 400 pounds of fresh fish.
In the first half of this century, fishermen caught two or three quintals daily during the fishing season using hook and line.
Fishermen regularly phone “The Fisheries Broadcast” with stories of catch rates of cod in the quota fishery several times higher than they have ever seen.
There would seem to exist the possibility of increased commercial activity in this area which would be particularly beneficial to rural Newfoundland. Unfortunately, it will never happen. The number of inshore fishers is only 2,000.
The federal government uses a quota management system.
The provincial government forbids a free market in the establishment of new plants, production facilities and innovative marketing ideas.
As Bill Barry stated on “The Fisheries Broadcast” last October, “I don’t think I’ll see in my lifetime a change in the regulatory sys- tem that would allow us to harvest the riches of the ocean in a rational, efficient manner.”
My family was involved in lobster canning at the turn of the last century.
There were no regulations, and by 1920, the stocks were seriously depleted.
The Dominion government closed the fishery for several years and, when it reopened, harvesting regulations were implemented. They have changed little since that time.
The lobster fishery has been a success every year for the past 90 years.
This successful fishery is a effort-managed system not a quota-based one and is based on a few core principles: control the effort, both in number of harvesters and type of gear, require live release of the young, protect the spawning biomass; and have no quotas.
Imagine instituting a management plan for the hopefully returning cod that could last successfully for 90 years as our forefathers did for lobster. Let’s call it “the lobster model.”
Barry Darby writes from St. John’s.