Iconic Northern Cod ‘Fishery Improvement Project’ continues as stock is out of the critical zone

(April 23, 2024 – Barcelona, Spain) – Stakeholders met in Barcelona yesterday to discuss the ongoing Northern Cod ‘Fishery Improvement Project’ (FIP). The participants share a long history in the cod business, and a deep commitment to the ultimate objective of a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified Northern cod fishery.

Stakeholders include Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), Marks & Spencer, Youngs Seafoods and Thistle Seafoods from the United Kingdom, Sysco France, High Liner Foods from Canada/United States, and producer organizations in Canada, including Ocean Choice International, Icewater Seafoods, the Association of Seafood Producers, and the Atlantic Groundfish Council. Representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the MSC also participated.

A new and more positive perspective of the Northern cod stock status was released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada since the group last met in April 2023. This includes a revised Limit Reference Point (LRP) following a science review using a wider suite of data and a more complete timeline of the stock. As a result, the Northern cod stock is now considered to be out of the critical cone. The 2024 stock assessment confirmed that improved status last month, estimating the stock is more than 20% above the LRP.

“There have been encouraging updates on Northern cod science in the past year, setting the stage to move towards a sustainable commercial fishery,” said Jim Cannon, President of SFP. “At the same time, the FIP and its world-class acoustic research continues to bring together industry, academics, and government, to improve knowledge and inform fisheries management for generations to come.”

The Northern Cod FIP is making steady progress. As of March 2024, more than 1,000 cod have been tagged with thousands of verified detections along the 700km acoustic array. The array has 75 receiver stations and provides unparalleled acoustic receiver coverage of a deepwater shelf-slope region allowing sustained observations of cod movement. It is part of the $8.5 million Northern Cod Acoustic Tracking Project, a central feature of the Northern Cod FIP.

An additional investment of more than $500,000 from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund is planned for 2024-2025. This includes work by Ocean Tracking Network to refurbish the array (inspect equipment, change batteries, etc.) and tag more cod. It also includes two PhD research projects, both of which will help the FIP continue to identify and address gaps in our understanding of the Northern cod complex.

The five participating seafood customers from the UK, France and North America are also contributing financially to the FIP, a clear signal of just how committed global customers are to Northern cod.

“There was a strong showing of confidence in the future of Northern cod, and in the continuation of this important Fishery Improvement Project,” said Alberto Wareham, President and CEO of Icewater Seafoods, reflecting on the meeting.  “This FIP is crucial to maintaining Northern cod’s place in premium world markets and to the ultimate objective of achieving MSC sustainability certification.”