Press Release

March 26, 2020


Moncton,NB -- The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) today released its annual advice to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the 2003/2004 conservation requirements for groundfish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The advice to the Minister is in the form of a preliminary report on the 2 major stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A full report on all Gulf groundfish stocks will follow in April 2003.

The FRCC conducted public consultations in Moncton, Port Hawkesbury, the Magdelan Islands and Gasp� in the southern Gulf, and in Blanc Sablon, Cow Head, and Port aux Basques in the northern Gulf. The Council was presented with strong opposing views from industry regarding the state of the stocks as estimated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Science. Although it acknowledges the divergence of views, the Council nevertheless believes that Gulf cod stocks have not improved since the end of the moratoria. 

The declaration by DFO scientists that the biomass of Gulf cod stocks will not improve appreciably or may even continue to decline with a complete fishing closure is interpreted by the Council as an overwhelming need to take auxiliary action to rebuild these stocks. In its report, the Council provides a comprehensive set of coordinated recommendations aimed at rebuilding the cod stock while acknowledging the need for industry involvement.

The report calls for integrated action by DFO and industry on the following fronts:

        establishment of specific seal-exclusion zones to reduce seal herds in areas where spawning and juvenile fish can be protected;

        extension of fishing closures in areas and times to protect cod during their Spring spawning period activity; and

        application of  new harvesting approaches designed to reduce waste and to lead to an orderly conduct of a significantly reduced index fishery.

 Although these general recommendations will sound familiar to the Minister, the Council is adamant in this year of crisis that DFO and industry work together to implement these recommendations as part of a rebuilding plan that the Council believes is the only hope to bring growth back to the resource.

“The closure option, taken on its own, creates difficulties for the Council - it does nothing to promote prospects for stock growth and rebuilding, and therefore fails to deliver on the Council’conservation mandate. We need to do much more. ,” insists Dan Lane, Chairman of the Council’s Gulf Team. “Furthermore there is reason to believe that taking fishermen off the water may result in a higher incidence of mortality and less stewardship of the resource.”

 “The Council is concerned about the prospects for the future of the cod stocks,” said Fred Woodman, Chairman of the FRCC. “While we do recommend a significant drop in fishing activity, we believe that further restriction in fisheries alone will not rebuild the cod stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

The Council’s summary recommendations for 2003/2004 are:

4TVn cod and 3Pn4RS cod

The FRCC recommends a number of comprehensive and coordinated measures to address the rebuilding of the resource. Seal-exclusion zones in specific areas to protect juvenile and spawning fish, extension of the spawning area closures throughout the Gulf, a ban on recreational fisheries, and restrictive gear and fishing effort restrictions are the actions directed at promoting the stocks to rebuild as suggested in the report. In order to effect immediate change this year while maintaining information flow and a partnership with industry, the Council recommends that total removals from all sources of fishing not exceed 3,000t for 4TVn and 3,500t for 3Pn4RS in 2003/2004.

Other groundfish stocks:

4T American plaice

The Council continues to be concerned with the lack of rebuilding of this stock. The Council recommends maintaining the 2003/2004 TAC at the precautionary level of 1,000t.

4RST witch flounder

The scientific assessment for this stock indicates that the biomass in some areas remains high. Stock structure remains a major source of uncertainty for this stock. For 2003/2004, the FRCC recommends maintaining the TAC at 1,000t, and that DFO scientists continue to investigate stock structure.

4RST Greenland halibut

The FRCC recommends setting the 2003/2004 TAC at 3,500t, with the exclusive use of 6-inch mesh in this fishery in 2003.

4T white hake

The FRCC recommends a continuation of no directed fishing on this stock, and that restrictive measures be implemented to minimize by-catches.

4RST Atlantic halibut The FRCC recommends maintaining the 2003/2004 TAC at 350t. The Council recommends that 3Pn catches continue to be limited to 40t until the stock structure is defined from tagging data.

4T winter flounder

Based on the Stock Status Report update for 2003, the FRCC recommends maintaining the 2003/2004 TAC at 1,000t. The Council recommends that a report on the preliminary implications of tagging work be tabled at the next Regional Advisory Process.

4T yellowtail flounder

The FRCC recommends that a 2002/2004 quota of 300t be maintained in the Magdalen Islands area, and that the fishery be restricted to by-catches in other areas. The Council also recommends that DFO management increase at-sea observers to more effectively monitor the by-catch of cod.


For information:

Arthur Willett
Executive Director, FRCC
(613) 998-0433