AGC Members Voluntarily Limit Catch of 3LN Redfish Quota

September 2023:  3LN Redfish is an important stock for the Canadian offshore groundfish fishery and the families and communities that it helps to support.  It is a “straddling fish stock”, extending outside Canada’s 200-mile economic zone.  As such it is managed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO).  At 42.6%, Canada has the single highest quota share of this fishery.

Redfish is a very long-lived species that is different from other groundfish species in several ways, one of which is its “episodic recruitment”.  Its natural population fluctuates over extended time cycles, involving 1-3 years of a very high birthrate that drives the population and biomass to high levels over a period of years, which then recede to lower levels over subsequent years, until the cycle is repeated.  These cycles can occur over a timeline measured in decades.

In 2022, 3LN Redfish was assessed by scientists to be near its long-term average level, receding from its high point that was driven by a large spike in abundance that entered the population about 15 years earlier.  Responding to reduced information available from the suite of annual surveys, the SC recommended that the catch for 2023 and 2024 not exceed the mean of the last 5 years (SC’s advice for 2019 through 2021 was for a catch of 18,100t).

NAFO is currently in the process of developing a new, state of the art, quantitative assessment model to support a Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) process for this redfish stock; the most robust process available for fisheries conservation of commercially utilized fish stocks.   The recent Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 18,100t has been extended for an additional two-year interim period, pending the outcome of this more sophisticated assessment model that is expected in 2024.  This decision reflects the recent average catch that has been about 2/3 of the TAC, consistent with scientific advice.

The Atlantic Groundfish Council (representing Canadian offshore license holders) has encouraged the Government of Canada and NAFO to engage in this robust conservation process in order to enable effective stewardship of this resource as it recedes to the point of its next strong recruitment cycle.  Members of the AGC have gone even further in their support of a responsible fishery, committing to limit Canada’s catch to 3,000t over the two-year interim period of 2023 and 2024 – less than 20% of the available Canadian quota for this period – if such action is needed to keep the total catch at the level noted above.