North­ern cod num­bers no rea­son to panic: FFAW

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial -

Last week’s news on North­ern Cod wasn’t what any­one was hop­ing for, but it’s no cause for panic.

There will be fluc­tu­a­tions in biomass from year to year in any stock that’s re­build­ing. These same cod stocks had de­clines from 2009 to 2011, but the over­all stock still in­creased 12-fold in the last 15 years, from an es­ti­mated 25,000 met­ric tonnes to 315,000 met­ric tonnes.

This year’s de­crease was not a re­sult of the very small ste­ward­ship fish­ery; nat­u­ral mor­tal­ity has been driv­ing the tra­jec­tory of this stock since the mora­to­rium. The har­vest lim­its ap­proved by DFO are ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive and well be­low the thresh­old DFO Sci­ence iden­ti­fies as not hin­der­ing over­all growth of the stock. But the re­al­ity is that or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Ground­fish En­ter­prise Al­lo­ca­tion Coun­cil (GEAC) and its off­shore cor­po­rate mem­bers want to kill in­shore ef­forts to pre­pare and re­build the North­ern Cod fish­ery.

Their disin­gen­u­ous in­ter­est in the con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity of North­ern Cod should not be taken se­ri­ously, es­pe­cially given the fact that their off­shore cor­po­rate trawlers con­tinue to fish vul­ner­a­ble, pre-spawn­ing ag­gre­ga­tions of cod on the prov­ince’s south coast.

With sus­tain­abil­ity and con­ser­va­tion as a top pri­or­ity, the in­shore fish­ery con­tin­ues to pre­pare for the re­turn of ground­fish.

The har­vest­ing pro­pos­als put for­ward by the N.L. Ground­fish In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil, a coali­tion of in­shore har­vesters and pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies, are based on sci­ence.

The union is co-lead­ing a Fish­eries Im­prove­ment Project (FIP) for North­ern Cod in 2JK3L, which was re­cently graded “A” by Fish­ for sig­nif­i­cant progress in ad­dress­ing con­cerns around bait, en­dan­gered/threat­ened/pro­tected species, har­vest con­trol rules and man­age­ment plans.

What is needed is more fo­cus on pre­da­tion within the ecosys­tem and a bet­ter look at the im­pact of seals on the stock. For years, our or­ga­ni­za­tion has been call­ing on the fed­eral govern­ment to step up and fol­low through with rec­om­men­da­tions to con­trol the seal pop­u­la­tion. There are ap­prox­i­mately eight mil­lion seals in Atlantic Canada, and each adult can eat about two tonnes of prey each year, up to half of which is cod. That’s a lot of cod — sub­stan­tially more than the small ste­ward­ship fish­ery har­vests each year.

It is also cru­cial that the govern­ment im­ple­ment mea­sures to track re­movals from the recre­ational fish­ery. We need as much data as pos­si­ble to tell the true pic­ture of health of this stock.

For cen­turies, coastal com­mu­ni­ties in New­found­land and Labrador re­lied on cod as their main eco­nomic driver. We need only to look to the in­tro­duc­tion of the off­shore drag­ger fleet to see how the col­lapse of our most prized re­source be­gan.

The in­shore fish­ery em­ploys thou­sands in har­vest­ing, pro­cess­ing, transportation and ser­vic­ing. The prof­its of which stay here in our prov­ince, con­tribut­ing to the liveli­hoods of fam­i­lies and sus­tain­ing en­tire com­mu­ni­ties and re­gions.

The small-scale in­shore fish­ery did not lead to the col­lapse of north­ern cod, nor is it hin­der­ing re­build­ing ef­forts.

Keith Sul­li­van Pres­i­dent, FFAW-Uni­for

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