May 19, 2020

FRCC Provides Minister with 1999 Advice for Georges Bank Groundfish Stocks

Ottawa -- The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) released today its annual advice to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for conservation requirements for Georges Bank Division 5Z haddock, cod and yellowtail flounder.

This year, the Council recommends that total removals be set at 4000t for haddock (5Zjm), 4000t for yellowtail flounder (5Zhjmn), and 2400t for cod (5Zjm). Total removals are for the entire area and include combined Canadian and American removals. The FRCC believes that, to ensure conservation of these stocks, it should present advice on the total stock basis as it does for all other groundfish stocks. Canada and the United States have yet to determine what share of the total removals level should be apportioned to each country.

"The issue of resource sharing is of significant concern to the Council because of the considerable risk of overexploitation of these resources," stated FRCC Chairman Fred Woodman. "Both countries must agree on sharing arrangements for these stocks so that the sacrifices towards rebuilding the Canadian industry has made over the past few years are not lost -- and the stocks subject to overfishing." The Council has recommended for several years that these discussions take place. Therefore, the Council again strongly recommends that discussion be undertaken with the US as soon as possible to ensure that consistent management and conservation measures are put in place on both sides of the boundary line.

The FRCC consultation last week in Yarmouth was characterized by a strong conservation ethic on the part of all stakeholders. Fishers have seen the signs of recovery in the yellowtail flounder and haddock stocks, though similar recovery is not apparent in the cod stock. Stakeholders are committed to stock rebuilding, with quotas set below the F0.1 level to allow this to occur.

While the haddock and yellowtail flounder stocks have improved since last year, and many believe they are recovering, the Council continues to recommend proceeding with caution. Improvement in the health of both these stocks can certainly be credited partly to the measures implemented by industry over the past few years. The Council supports and encourages these initiatives.

The Georges Bank cod stock is showing signs of danger, particularly with respect to the lack of good incoming recruitment. Although the total mature biomass has grown by more than 20% from 1998 to 1999, most of that growth came only from the existing mature biomass, and not from incoming new young fishes.

The FRCC believes the 1999 fishery must be managed with the utmost care to ensure the placement of good conservation practices and intends to carefully review this situation again next year with a view to a thorough stock status evaluation to determine a long-term conservation strategy for 5Zjm cod. Key in this assessment will be the amount of progress made with the US on cooperative management and conservation measures.

The Council notes that the 1998 year-class for cod is the lowest ever observed and thus is more conservative this year in its recommendation. Given the low recommended total removals for cod, the Council is concerned about the potential problems, including the increased potential for dumping and discarding, and recommends that DFO identify control vessels, with observers onboard, to compare against landings of vessels without observers as real time mechanisms to control cod bycatch encountered during the fishery in this area. Observer coverage on these vessels should be increased so that, when combined with 100% dockside monitoring, decisions can be quickly made to close fisheries by area or by fleet, as necessary.

"Stakeholders support the need for an appropriate mix of cod and haddock quotas to minimize dumping and discarding. A cleaner fishery – which will contribute to rebuilding and protecting these stocks – must become not merely a conservation goal but conservation practice," noted Mr. Woodman. "Fishers must simply fish better."

To help minimize the bycatch problem in mixed fisheries, the FRCC recommends that the Georges Bank fishery remain closed until June 1.


For information:

Lisa Tenace
Client and Public Relations
FRCC Secretariat
(613) 998-1144

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