Frustration to embarrassment to shame, patience lost with DFO science: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, Feb. 10, 2023

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) says continued cancellations and delays of critical assessments that survey the health of major fish stocks like northern cod have turned Fisheries and Oceans science into a Canadian shame.

“We’re past the point of frustration and embarrassment with DFO science; it’s now Canada’s shame,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director.

DFO’s science director for the province released a letter Thursday afternoon informing fishing industry representatives that the Canadian Coast Guard science ship Alfred Needler has been deemed “beyond repair” and decommissioned.

That’s only five months earlier than planned, but the impact on DFO’s science program is huge because the aging ship was needed to help bring two new science vessels into service.

That happens through comparative fishing, when an older vessel trawls alongside a new one — a critical step to calibrate differences between ships in trawl performance and ensure the continuity of DFO data.

“That continuity has been broken with the early loss of the Needler,” said Cleary. “DFO must clearly explain the consequences for its science program and future stock assessments.”

DFO also revealed Thursday there would be no 2023 assessment of northern cod for the second year (this is year 31 of the moratorium). The shrimp stock off southern Labrador and northeastern Newfoundland, the stock primarily fished by the inshore fleet in shrimp fishing areas 5 and 6, also won’t be assessed this year.

Breakdowns, unplanned maintenance and refits on both new and old fisheries science vessels — on top of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — have led to the cancellation of numerous stock assessments going back to 2020.

“Poor science translates into bad management, and that’s exactly where we are right now,” said Cleary.

Ryan Cleary, Executive Director
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc.
709 682 4862