March 25, 2020
FRCC 1998 CONSERVATION REQUIREMENTS for GULF of ST. LAWRENCE GROUNDFISH, COD STOCKS IN DIVISIONS 2GH, 2J3KL, 3Ps and 4VsW, and SCIENCE PRIORITIES for DFO
Halifax -- The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) released today its report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on 1998 conservation requirements for all Gulf of St. Lawrence groundfish stocks, cod stocks in divisions 2GH, 2J3KL, 3Ps and 4VsW, witch flounder in division 3Ps, and science priorities for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The FRCC recommends a continued moratorium on commercial fishing for cod in divisions 2GH, 2J3KL, 4TVn and 4VsW cod.
As moratoria continue, the erosion of information from fishing and of confidence in the data provided by DFO Science are becoming more problematic. "Without some fishing, there is a sense in the fishing community that no one knows whats going on," said FRCC Chairman Fred Woodman.
The Council recommends the establishment of an Index Program for Northern cod (2J3KL) and Southern Gulf cod (4TVn) to supplement information from sentinel programs. "The Index Program will simulate commercial activity, thus restoring some level of confidence in the data," said Mr Woodman. The program will provide another index of abundance to the DFO research vessel survey.
"Fishers are frustrated that the cod stocks have not rebuilt as anticipated. After five years and six fishing seasons boats are still tied to the wharves in most places and the outlook as described by scientists is even more bleak than at the beginning of the moratorium," noted Mr. Woodman.
The FRCC is concerned about the polarity developing between the fishing industry and science, despite the success of the sentinel fishery program and a more open and inclusive process for scientific assessment. "The industry has run out of patience with moratoria -- they have yet to see a return on their investment, or an explanation why recovery is not taking place," observed Mr. Woodman. "Effective communication between science and industry has never been more important."
Other key recommendations from the report include an increase in the recommended TAC from 10,000t to 20,000t for 3Ps cod, and an increase from 3,000t to 4,000t for 4RST Greenland halibut. For 3Pn4Rs cod, the Council recommends that the TAC be set at 5,000t and the conservation measures implemented in this fishery in 1997 be used again in 1998. A TAC at this level will still allow for rebuilding of the stock.
The expanding seal population issue was raised at all consultations as a frustrating impediment to recovery. As seals represent a renewable resource which can be sustainably harvested in the context of overall management of the marine ecosystem, the FRCC continues to promote measures to control and reduce the expanding population.
"Seals are an emotional issue for fishers throughout Atlantic Canada and Québec. Many comments were made during consultations that seals have become more important than fishermen," said Mr. Woodman. "The Council is disappointed that the effect of seal consumption could not be incorporated as part of the stock assessment."
"Recruitment is clearly another cause of frustration for fishers, who had a clear expectation that no directed fishing would significantly improve the health of the stocks," noted Council Vice-Chairman Dr. Jean-Claude Brêthes. "Continued closures and stock declines have heightened the frustration behind the question of why some stocks still do not seem to be recovering."
To help address this recruitment issue, it is recommended that a focused initiative, based on a "zonal approach" be undertaken by DFO Science to respond to the question of recovery, and to determine whether additional conservation measures can be implemented. The Council recommends that the existing information be consolidated into a formal report, in language accessible to all stakeholders, and that the research priorities to be undertaken be outlined. As part of this report, the preparation of a "zonal strategy" to address the recovery issue should be built from the conclusions of the report.
Other FRCC recommendations to the Minister include complementing modern scientific tools with sources of data, such as a major tagging program.
The strengthening of science-industry initiatives is also an important priority and the Council recommends the appointment of an Atlantic coordinator to promote these initiatives this within the Department, and among stakeholders.
The FRCC congratulates the Department on moving forward with the implementation of many of the Councils previous recommendations on science priorities such as joint science-industry initiatives, and improving the effectiveness of the Regional Advisory Process. The Council thanks DFO Science for its support and continues to support the work of DFO scientists.
The Council continues to advocate the use of the precautionary approach, which requires "ecosystem thinking" at every step of the decision-making process. "While stock assessment remains important, the basic biology must not missed," added Dr. Brêthes. "This requires a balance between stock assessment and basic research in biology, oceanography and ecology -- including innovative management approaches to implement this thinking."
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