April 17, 2020FRCCS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GROUNDFISH STOCKS IN
Dieppe, NB -- The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) released today its annual advice to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for 2002/2003 conservation requirements for groundfish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Overall, the FRCC is pessimistic about the prospects for the cod stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Since the early 1990s, their abundance has remained near historical lows, despite severe restrictions on commercial fishing. Predation by seals is now the dominant source of exploitation on groundfish in the Gulf.
"The Council is concerned about the prospects for the future of the cod stocks," said Mr. Fred Woodman, Chairman of the FRCC. "While we do not recommend a change to commercial catch levels, we consider this the last year we can follow this maintenance strategy while so few positive signals are evident in these stocks."
In the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Council recommends that the Total Allowable Catch for cod remain unchanged at 7,000t for 2002/2003. In the southern Gulf, the Council also recommends that the TAC for cod remain unchanged at 6,000t for 2002/2003.
"Both of these cod stocks are seeing fewer numbers of 3 year old fish, the first age at which their numbers can be estimated. We dont think this is a result of fewer fish being born: they just dont seem to be surviving to age 3," continued Mr. Woodman.
The Chairman of the Councils Gulf Ecosystem Team, Dr. Daniel Lane underlined the predation by a growing seal herd in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
"The Council has provided past advice about the need to deal with the ecosystem imbalance which seems to have developed in the Gulf," said Dr. Lane. "Reductions in seal populations are required in areas where groundfish spawn and on juvenile groundfish nursery areas. Unlimited, unhampered and unrestricted seal predation on highly vulnerable groundfish cannot be allowed to continue if groundfish stocks are to be allowed to rebuild."
For the first time, the Council is speculating that these groundfish stocks may have attained a new equilibrium and may not rebuild as expected in the medium to long-term even with no commercial fishing.
Mr. Woodman goes on to say: "The Atlantic fishery is seeing changes which we just do not understand. Crab, shrimp and lobster stocks are at very high levels compared to the past, as are mackerel and some herring stocks. It may be that expecting groundfish to return to past levels is not realistic under the current circumstances."
In its report, the Council also reiterates that the quality of information coming from the so-called recreational fishery is not equal to that derived from professional fishermen who operate under a management regime of strict controls and monitoring, and recommends that no recreational fishery take place in the coming year.
The Councils key recommendations for 2002/2003 are:
For 2002/2003, the FRCC recommends maintaining the total removals at 6,000t; if after 2002 the Council concludes that stock abundance shows significant decline, then the total removals must be significantly reduced.
For 2002/2003, the FRCC recommends maintaining the total removals at 7,000t; if after 2002 the Council concludes that stock abundance shows significant decline, then the total removals must be significantly reduced.
Other groundfish stocks:
4T American plaice
The Council is concerned at the continued lack of rebuilding in this stock. The Council recommends setting the 2002/2003 TAC at 1,000t, a reduction of 1,000t.
4RST witch flounder
The scientific assessment for this stock indicates an increase in the biomass in some areas. Industry also reports an increase in the biomass. For 2002/2003, the FRCC recommends maintaining the TAC of 1,000t.
4RST Greenland halibut
The Council has concerns for the high proportion of females in the catch and the decline rates of growth by sex. The FRCC recommends setting the 2002/2003 TAC at 3,500t, a reduction of 1,000t.
4T white hake
The FRCC recommends no directed fishery for this stock and that restrictive measures be implemented to minimize by-catches.
4RST Atlantic halibut
The FRCC recommends maintaining the 2002/2003 TAC at 350t. As an interim measure pending clarification of stock structure, the Council also recommends limiting catches in 3Pn to 40t.
4T winter flounder
The FRCC recommends maintaining the 2002/2003 TAC at 1,000t.
4T yellowtail flounder
The FRCC recommends that a 2002/2003 quota of 300t be maintained in the Magdalen Islands area, and that the fishery be restricted to by-catches in other areas.
Michel G. Vermette
Executive Director, FRCC