(March 23, 2021 – St. John’s, NL) – The Atlantic Groundfish Council has taken an unprecedented step in reaction to the Government of Canada’s stated intent to implement a moratorium on directed fishing of the 3Ps cod stock. Industry participants were informed of this position just days before bilateral negotiations with France were set to begin today.
“Given that the mandate for the Canadian Delegation is something that we cannot support, we feel we have no choice but to withdraw from the position of Advisors to this week’s bilateral meetings with France,” announced Bruce Chapman, President of the Atlantic Groundfish Council. “We do not make this decision lightly. In my over 40 years of being involved as an advisor to DFO in many bilateral and multi-lateral fisheries negotiations, there have been many times when there has been differing views. But never something so severe that has required this action.”
Each of AGC’s NL members – Icewater Seafoods, Ocean Choice International and Harbour Grace Shrimp Company – have also withdrawn as Advisors to the meeting where the total allowable catch (TAC) of 3Ps cod will be negotiated for the 2021-2022 season. It is understood that other industry participants have decided to do the same.
Following this year’s Groundfish Advisory Council, the Atlantic Groundfish Council recommended setting the 2021-2022 total allowable catch (TAC) at the same level as the previous season, citing a 55% cut last year and the most recent science projection that keeping the TAC at the same level will lead to stock growth. All other industry participants at that meeting, including the FFAW Union, echoed the recommendation. With no indication from DFO that more drastic measures were being considered, industry fully expected the catch to be set at last year’s level of 2,691mt.
“We know 3Ps cod is in the critical zone. We also know we have prioritized the long-term health of this stock in our recommendations year after year. It’s a principle we will never waiver from,” explained Dr. Kris Vascotto, Executive Director of the Atlantic Groundfish Council. “But the science doesn’t support the need to close the fishery. Knowing that and knowing how many people and families depend on this for their livelihoods, we just couldn’t participate in bilateral discussions with France, intended to achieve an agreement to close the fishery, on the basis of the scientific evidence presented and without fulsome discussion with those most impacted by a decision.”
AGC has advocated for and supported reductions of 80% of the TAC since 2016 – all in the interest of stock conservation. The TAC has dropped from 13,043 mt in 2016/2017 to 2,691 mt in 2020/2021. In fact, there are times when AGC asked DFO to make steeper reductions sooner.
Even after the TAC reductions, the small remaining 3Ps cod fishery continues to be crucial to the region and the province. At Icewater Seafoods’ high tech processing plant in Arnold’s Cove, 3Ps cod makes up 40-50% of its raw material in a typical year. Adding to the stock’s importance is the fact that those landings occur from early summer through February, playing a key role in the company’s ability to keep people working and to sell cod from all fishing zones in NL into premium markets. Those markets in the UK and France demand year-round products.
In addition to the 225 employees who work in the nearly year-round Arnold’s Cove operation, hundreds of harvesters in the region fish 3Ps cod.
“3Ps cod is the backbone of our plant, the backbone of this town and I’d argue, the backbone of the entire area,” stressed Icewater Seafoods President & CEO Alberto Wareham. “The harvesters who catch cod, the plant workers who process it, the truck drivers, fishing gear suppliers, dockside monitors, many, many local businesses. It’s a lot of people and a lot of families who deserve an explanation as to why 3Ps cod is being held to a different standard than other fish stocks.”
For Wareham, even a small fishery keeps Newfoundland Cod from all fishing zones in desired world markets. NL provides approximately 1% of the world’s supply of cod. If those markets are lost, it will be near-impossible to re-gain the customers his family-owned business spent decades establishing.
“Meaningful consultation with those impacted is important for all decision-making on fish stocks. For a position of this magnitude to be taken without meaningful consultation or reasonable discussion is difficult to comprehend,” added Blaine Sullivan, President at Ocean Choice, whose family has been fishing cod for generations. “We owe it to our employees, to harvesters, to all those whose livelihoods are enhanced by the fishery to demand better.”
The Atlantic Groundfish Council and its members remain hopeful that the through the negotiations between Canada and France this week, the sustainable and responsible 3Ps cod fishery will be permitted to continue in 2021-2022.
Media Contact: Sarah Fleming, [email protected], 709.725.5830
About the Atlantic Groundfish Council
The Atlantic Groundfish Council 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 responsible management.