Atlantic Groundfish Council emphasizes the need for patience following the 2019 Northern Cod stock assessment

(April 2, 2019 – St. John’s, NL) – The industry group that represents year-round groundfish harvesters across Atlantic Canada is encouraged by the recent Northern Cod (2J3KL) stock assessment update from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

“The Atlantic Groundfish Council has a maintained an unwavering commitment to the return of a strong and sustainable Northern Cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador,” says Kris Vascotto, Executive Director. “The 2019 assessment places the stock just shy of the halfway point of meeting the minimum standard for the return of a commercial fishery. That is welcomed news for all.”

The bright spot in the 2019 assessment is that the Spawning Stock Biomass (i.e., quantity of fish at reproductive age) is estimated to be at 48% of the Limit Reference Point (LRP). The Limit Reference Point is the level at which the stock is considered healthy enough to support a full commercial fishery.

“While the stock assessment indicates Northern Cod is moving in the right direction, the Council is also cautioning industry, and government, to be patient. Last year’s assessment showed a decline while this year the stock appears to have returned to where it was two years ago. This is good news, but we continue to recommend that DFO proceed with caution during a period of mixed signals and uncertainty,” Vascotto added. “DFO must ensure that the recovery is sustainable before increasing the catch significantly.”

After the Northern Cod moratorium in 1992, the stock showed promising signs of rebuilding in the late 90s. However, intense pressure from the FFAW led to the fishery being increased, with far too many fish being taken out of the water. As a result, the stock collapsed a second time and the fishery was shut down in 2003. The Atlantic Groundfish Council and its members, including Alberto Wareham, President and CEO of Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove, NL, hope the lesson has been learned on the consequences of aggressive catch increases of a stock still in recovery.

“My view in 2019 is the same as it was in 2018, in 2017 and every other year; we a need to focus on the long-term, to be cautious and to go-slow in our approach towards a sustainable recovery,” Wareham urges. The Icewater Seafoods plant and its 210 employees rely solely on cod, yet the company continues to encourage a conservative approach to fisheries management. “While we should be optimistic and continue to invest in the future of cod in Newfoundland and Labrador, we need to do it right.”

Ocean Choice President Blaine Sullivan, whose family has been harvesting cod for generations, agreed, “Reaching 48% of the limit reference point is great news, but we need to be patient enough to reach a full and sustainable recovery.”

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Sarah Fleming,
Director of Communications, Atlantic Groundfish Council,
709.725.5830, sfleming@atlanticgroundfish.ca

About the Atlantic Groundfish Council

The Atlantic Groundfish Council (formerly GEAC) is a non-profit industry association representing year-round groundfish harvesters in Atlantic Canada. Its members employ thousands of people, in mostly year-round jobs, in rural communities throughout Atlantic Canada. The Council contributes to research that will improve the sustainability and management of groundfish fisheries by actively supporting science, sustainability certifications and