FRCC’S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NORTHERN COD
March 27, 2020
St. John’s, NL -- The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) today released its recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the 2003/2004 conservation requirements for 2J3KL cod.
In providing its advice, the Council has taken into consideration Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) scientific review and the input received from fishermen, community groups and other industry stakeholders. The Council conducted consultations in Twillingate and St. Anthony in December, 2002, and in Grand Falls, Clarenville and St. John’s during the first week of March, 2003.
The Council has determined that the Northern cod is in a state of crisis, and that there has been a lack of progress towards the goal of rebuilding the Northern cod fishery since the moratorium on fishing imposed in 1992. Therefore, the Council is looking at more severe and innovative ways to enhance the likelihood of recovery in this resource. The Council is of the view that no single action will substantially increase the likelihood that the Northern cod will rebuild. Hence, the Council is recommending that a full and comprehensive suite of recommended strategies be followed, and that these form the basis of a rebuilding plan for the Northern cod. The FRCC notes that key past recommendations, — in particular, reducing seal and fishing mortality and closing areas to fisheries on the banks — have not been implemented.
In his request for advice to the Council, the Minister has expressed the view that substantial changes are required in the way the major cod stocks are managed. The Council fully agrees with this view. As a starting point, the Council believes that the coastal and Bank sub-stocks must be treated differently, and that comprehensive rebuilding strategies must be put in place for an initial period of 5 years, after which time their success and impacts will be evaluated to the fullest extent possible.
For both the bank and coastal sub-stocks, the FRCC believes that rebuilding strategies must be based on an increased level of collaboration and partnership between DFO, industry and the fishing communities.
A major part of the recommended rebuilding strategy is the formation of Coastal Fisheries Councils, that would have a stewardship role, be comprised of people close to the fisheries, and have designated operational decision-making powers with respect local harvests and by-catches, and with local issues of enforcement. The Coastal Councils would also be integrated into management decisions for the full stock. The FRCC believes that such local Councils can help guide the fisheries back to a state of health and involve fishermen and communities in responsibilities for their own future.
For the bank sub-stocks, the Council is recommending a much higher level of protection than has been the case since the moratorium. In order to reduce by-catch mortality and disturbance to spawning and juvenile cod, the Council is recommending experimental “cod boxes” be established in the Hawke Channel and Tobin’s Point–Bonavista Corridor areas. These areas would be protected from all forms of commercial fisheries (except crab traps) and other invasive activity such as seismic exploration. The boxes would give the Bank cod the best chance of rebuilding.
One of the most innovative measures recommended by the Council is the mandatory landing of all off-shore by-catches of cod. It is further suggested that all revenues from cod by-catch landings be forfeited to the Crown in support of science related to the bank sub-stocks.
“The Northern cod stock has shown no significant signs of recovery since the moratorium on fishing was declared in 1992,” said Mr. Fred Woodman, Chairman of the FRCC. “It is now time for us to take a different approach. Stopping the commercial cod fishery alone will not work”. Mr. Woodman added that recommendations in this report are paramount to protecting the last remaining Bank sub-stocks.
During the March consultations in Newfoundland, the Council once again heard overwhelmingly from the fishermen in attendance about the impact of seals on the recovery of the Northern cod. There was a consensus among fishermen that this stock cannot recover with seal populations at their current levels. Indeed, the recent Stock Status Report acknowledges the possibility that predation by seals is preventing the recovery of the 2J3KL (northern) cod stock. The Coastal Fisheries Councils, proposed by the FRCC, would have responsibility to assist in the implementation of any Seal Exclusion Zones and have designated responsibilities in cod conservation.
The coastal sub-stock fared better than the bank sub-stocks after the moratorium, but has declined and contracted in recent years. Hence, the Council has determined that mortality from all sources must also be reduced in the coastal region to the lowest practical level over the trial period of 5 years. Cod mortality by seals, must be curtailed. In addition, the Council considered five options to reduce fishing mortality.
The FRCC believes that option 3 is the best way ahead, and is most likely to result in the fullest reduction in true fishing mortality. The FRCC must insist that it does not endorse the implementation of option 3 without application of the other recommendations to protect the northern cod, because such an action is unlikely to rebuild the stock, which remains the prime objective.
Based on a five-year set of rebuilding strategies, the Council makes over 20 recommendations on the Northern cod stocks. The plan is largely based on stewardship of the resource by fishers, and measures aimed at protecting the sub-stocks of northern cod to give the full stock the strongest possible chance to rebuild.
The preliminary report and recommendations can be obtained from the FRCC website at www.frcc-ccrh.ca