Cod bites

Fish­er­men, pro­ces­sor weigh in on 3Ps cod fish­ery af­ter DFO tech­ni­cal brief­ing

The Southern Gazette - - Classifieds - BY PAUL HERRIDGE MARYS­TOWN, N.L. paul.herridge@south­erngazette.ca

Glen Hodge de­pends on cod caught in fish­ing zone 3Ps for his liveli­hood.

Though he also catches crab and lob­ster, the species pro­vides 60 per cent of his in­come, the St. Lawrence in­shore fish­er­man said.

This year was a lit­tle slower go­ing than last year, he said, but gen­er­ally he’s done well.

“In 3Ps, within the last four years, I had no prob­lem catch­ing fish, no prob­lem what­so­ever,” he said.

Con­cerns con­tinue about the well­be­ing of the stock in the zone, which cov­ers most of the prov­ince’s south coast, how­ever.

A tech­ni­cal brief­ing held by the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) in St. John’s on Tues­day, Oct. 23 pro­vided up-to-date sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion on cod in 3Ps.

Still con­cerns

The mes­sage was the stock has im­proved some­what in the last three years, but to­tal mor­tal­ity is still high, and if that con­tin­ues to be the case, the spawn­ing stock biomass could move from the cau­tious zone to the crit­i­cal zone in the next few years.

The to­tal al­low­able catch (TAC) for 3Ps for 2018 is 5,980 met­ric tonnes, 933 met­ric tonnes of which goes to France for St-Pierre. A cou­ple of years ago, the quota was cut ba­si­cally in half be­cause of con­cerns over the stock.

Like many fish­er­men, Hodge sees drag­gers fish­ing in the zone as a worry. He also feels fish­er­men’s knowl­edge and opin­ions aren’t val­ued as they should be.

“You can speak up all you like,” he said. “They will not lis­ten to us. We don’t know noth­ing, we knows it, but they don’t want to hear it.”

Trust­ing the science

Af­ter years of fish­ing cod in 3Ps, La Poile fish­er­man Ray Vau­tier says it’s been about half a decade since he’s done that. It’s no longer worth his while, he said, cit­ing the price of cod, the fish grad­ing sys­tem and other fac­tors.

Vau­tier now heads to the Cana­dian North dur­ing the sum­mer, work­ing on tugs and freighters, re­turn­ing to La Poile to fish to­wards the end of Oc­to­ber. He’ll be back soon and will spend Novem­ber catch­ing cod in fish­ing zone 3Pn, just west of 3Ps.

“Last year, the catch rates were un­be­liev­able. The best I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Vau­tier is not sure what to make of DFO science. One year, they’ll say a stock is re­cov­er­ing, the next year they’re in aw­ful shape again, he said.

“You take in 2003 for in­stance, they shut down the cod quota in the Gulf (of St. Lawrence) com­pletely. In 2004, they opened up again be­cause stocks were good enough. Cod stocks don’t re­cover that quick, or dis­ap­pear that quick,” he said.

Cau­tiously op­ti­mistic

Al­berto Ware­ham, pres­i­dent of Ice­wa­ter Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove, on the other hand, was en­cour­aged by DFO’s brief­ing.

Ice­wa­ter Seafoods pro­cesses cod and is a mem­ber com­pany of the Ground­fish En­ter­prise Al­lo­ca­tion Coun­cil, a non-profit as­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sent­ing off­shore ground­fish fish­ing en­ter­prises in At­lantic Canada.

“The science on the stock was bet­ter than we an­tic­i­pated,” he told The South­ern Gazette.

“We’re right in the mid­dle of the cau­tious zone. We still need to be cau­tious with the stock, but since 2015, the stock has grown a lit­tle bit each year, so I take that as pos­i­tive.”

Ware­ham, who ac­knowl­edged govern­ment and in­dus­try must con­tinue to be care­ful with 3Ps cod, said growth of the spawn­ing stock biomass and re­ports that the fish were a bit health­ier are good signs.

“But there’s a long way to go be­fore we say we won the lot­tery and we have a large-scale fish­ery,” he said.

As DFO pre­pares to set the quota for cod in 3Ps for 2019, Ware­ham said he’s hope­ful the sta­tus quo re­mains in place.

“My thoughts would be, the best thing we should do for the long-term fu­ture of the stock is just roll it over,” he said.

GULF NEWS FILE PHO­TOS

Ray Vau­tier

Al­berto Ware­ham

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