Dark day for NL fishery

‘Dark day for fishery’; inshore advocates say lifting 32-year northern cod moratorium wrong way forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, June 26th, 2024

DFO’s decision to lift the northern cod moratorium and unleash foreign and domestic offshore draggers on the iconic stock when all signs point to proceeding with extreme caution amounts to a dark day for the province’s commercial fisheries.

“We have learned nothing after 32 years of moratorium,” says inshore advocate Ryan Cleary. “The only thing historic about today is the relentless fisheries management failure.”

Released unexpectedly Wednesday morning, DFO’s 2024 northern cod management plan reestablishes a commercial fishery for northern cod, the first since 1992, setting the total allowable catch (TAC) at 18,000 tonnes.

That’s only a 5,000-tonne increase from 2023’s maximum harvest level of 12,999 tonnes, but that was under a small-scale stewardship fishery limited to inshore handlines, longlines, gillnets, and cod pots.

The resumption of a full-fledged commercial fishery opens the door to offshore foreign and domestic factory-freezer trawlers once again fishing the stock.

“There’s an overriding concern that the safeguards in place for northern cod under a stewardship fishery have been eliminated,” says Merv Wiseman, another inshore advocate. He called on the stakeholders to reverse the decision and collectively work together on another way forward.”

Under rules of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which oversees high-seas fishing outside Canada’s 200-mile limit, foreign fleets automatically get 5% of any northern cod quota once a commercial fishery resume.

DFO also gave the Canadian offshore sector a 6% share of the 2024 quota, and offshore draggers may be permitted to land the 10% allotted to Indigenous groups.

Setting aside any northern cod quota to the offshore sector goes against a 2021 written pledge by DFO to allocate the first 115,000 tonnes of northern cod to the inshore sector/Indigenous interests.

In their latest update this past March, DFO scientists said the growth of the northern cod stock has stalled since 2016.

DFO upgraded the stock’s status in 2023 to cautious from critical, but that was based on a new stock assessment model that takes in more historic fishery data rather than an actual increase in fish.

Earlier this year SEA-NL recommended DFO not reopen the commercial fishery for northern cod in 2024 or the foreseeable future, and, instead, continue on with the inshore stewardship fishery — albeit with a higher maximum harvest level.

The 2024 management plan also stipulates that 20% of the quota (3,014 tonnes) be provided to Labrador-based (fishing zone 2J) inshore harvesters, but inshore boats from Newfoundland have fished off Labrador for hundreds of years and their continued access to the stock isn’t clear.

Contact Ryan Cleary 709 682 4862

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