Following annual science update on south coast cod, Atlantic Groundfish Council members remain focused on sustainability and rebuilding the stock

Today, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) held a technical briefing on the latest science assessment for the 3Ps cod stock, located off the south coast of Newfoundland.  This briefing marks the beginning of the total allowable catch setting process for the 2022-2023 3Ps cod season.

There are signs of optimism for this stock on the water, in the plants and within the science assessment itself.  The DFO research vessel survey continues to show reasonably strong signs of recruitment and both fishers and the research vessel survey are reporting that the cod are in better condition than they have been for many years.  Most importantly, the natural mortality driving the stock seems to finally be returning towards long-term norms and the impact of fishing is at historic lows. This is good news for the future of 3Ps cod.

“Sustainability of marine resources has been and will continue to be the foundation of everything we do as a sector. Sustainable fisheries, rooted in good science and prudent resource management decisions, is not only what sustains fish stocks, but also the people, communities and enterprises tied to the fishery,” explains Dr Kris Vascotto, Executive Director of the Atlantic Groundfish Council.

In the case of 3Ps cod, beneficiaries include inshore and offshore fish harvesters and the 225 plant employees working nearly year-round at Icewater Seafoods’ world class plant in Arnold’s Cove that relies on the 3Ps fishery as a core component of their annual operational plan.

“Customers of Icewater don’t just desire sustainably harvested seafood, they demand it,” explained Alberto Wareham, President & CEO of Icewater Seafoods. “As a sector, the Atlantic Groundfish Council and its members have shown industry leadership on sustainability of all stocks including 3Ps cod. On 3Ps cod we have consistently demonstrated our willingness to make necessary sacrifices for the sustainability, advocating for total allowable catch reductions to mitigate and reverse any downturn in stock health.”

Support and advocacy by Wareham to keep catches low at a time when his cod-only plant is operating at less than 50% capacity is a testament to the level of commitment to sustainable harvesting by Atlantic Groundfish Council members. The Council is also leading a Fishery Improvement Project specific to 3Ps cod that is supported by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, a global non-profit that operates to rebuild depleted fish stocks.

“The challenges facing 3Ps cod are due to natural mortality, not fishing rates – an important indicator of sustainability and good management. As industry participants working with the Government of Canada look to rebuild this stock, we take pride in being a part of the solution.  Our shared commitment to good management reassures customers that we share their vision of sustainably harvested wild seafood,” Vascotto noted.

As for its recommendation on total allowable catch for the coming season (which typically opens in late May), the Atlantic Groundfish Council is taking time to review the information provided by DFO Science, discuss with stakeholders and looks forward to further discussions at the Groundfish Advisory Committee in January in advance of the annual negotiations with France in the spring.