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3Ps cod assessment cancelled; DFO fall offshore surveys plagued (again) by delays/breakdowns

That’s the latest word from Brian Healey, DFO’s acting science director in the province, confirming recent news reports that the fall multi-species surveys in waters off this province will be largely missed for the third straight year. In other words, DFO science isn't what it needs to be for the department to properly manage stocks.

The Canadian Coast Guard offshore science vessel Alfred Needler (pictured earlier this year in St. John's harbour) has been in service since 1982, and is scheduled to be replaced.

The aging DFO science vessels Alfred Needler and Teleost are to be replaced by the Jacques Cartier, based in Dartmouth, and the John Cabot in St. John's.

But before the Cabot and Cartier can be brought into service they must carry out comparative fishing, which is when a new vessel trawls side by side with an older vessel to calibrate for trawl performance and noice levels to ensure continuity in the data series.

In an email to SEA-NL, Healey said "short-term challenges and unplanned maintenance on the new and older ships have impacted planned comparative fishing operations."

As a result, this fall's at-sea science program has been cut back, focused on comparative fishing for "key commercial species" only.

While the four coast guard vessels (Needler, Teleost, Jacques Cartier, and John Cabot) began comparative fishing in September off Labrador and eastern Newfoundland (fishing zones 2HJ3KLNO), the work is not designed to provide "standard survey data" so much as enable the continuity of data sets and time series for science assessments.

The end result — poor science in the fishing zone where the iconic northern cod has been under moratorium for 30 years, and counting.


While the John Cabot surveyed the southwest and south coasts of Newfoundland (fishing zones 3NOPs), as well as a portion of the east coast (fishing zone 3L) during the 2022 spring survey, the data is incomplete, and not comparable with past surveys.

Healey said an assessment of 3Ps cod is not taking place this fall, although a rebuilding plan for the cod stock is still expected to be completed by year's end.

SEA-NL revealed the secrecy surrounding the 3Ps rebuilding plan this past April in this post: 3Ps 2022 cod quota rolled over from last year; offshore draggers still allowed to fish stock

In October, Morley Knight, a former Assistant Deputy Minister with DFO in Ottawa went on public record to say poor science is undermining the department's ability to manage fish stocks

As I've said before, DFO science isn't getting done — which translates into a department managing fish stocks blind.

We must demand better, and bureaucrats must be held accountable.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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