According to a memo circulated Monday by the Atlantic Groundfish Council, which represents the offshore dragger fleet, a rebuilding plan is quickly coming together for the 3Ps cod stock — which DFO science said last month remains in the critical zone. It's also clear the inshore fleet will be the last to know about it.
The 3Ps cod fishery was shut down in 1993, but reopened in 1997 with a quota of 10,000 tonnes. Since then the quota has jumped to a high as 30,000 tonnes in 1999 to this year's low of 1,345 tonnes, half of the 2020 allocation. Photo of Belleoram, Fortune Bay.
The Atlantic Groundfish Council is a member of a 3Ps cod rebuilding working group that also includes DFO officials, the FFAW, fish processors, Oceans North, OCI, and Icewater (which runs the Arnold's Cove plant).
The working group met in March, and again on Monday (Dec. 13th).
"Generally, all are aligned with potential harvest strategies that allow exploitation to be undertaken in the critical zone," read a memo circulated by the Atlantic Groundfish Council after the meeting.
A package of fisheries objectives and draft harvester control rules were also tabled during the meeting by Oceans North, a conservation group (one-time MHA/Fisheries minister/FFAW executive Trevor Taylor serves as vice-president of conservation).
According to the memo, the package was generally acknowledged as "a good starting point," and members of the working group have until this Friday, Dec. 17th, to provide additional comment.
From there, the group is scheduled to meet again in early January to finalize the rebuilding plan approach, and start agreeing on harvest control rules.
"DFO is being pressured to achieve this before the 3Ps advisory committee meeting on the week of January 10th," the memo read.
ASAP, IN OTHER WORDS
"While the Minister had committed to have a rebuilding plan in place for 2022, it is clear that this will not happen," read the memo. "Instead, DFO intends to demonstrate significant progress of the rebuilding plan in preparation for discussions with France in March."
Canada co-manage the 3Ps cod stock with France, which owns the islands of St. Pierre-Miquelon off southern Newfoundland.
The speed at which a 3Ps cod rebuilding plan is coming together is reminiscent of what happened with northern cod in 2016.
Back then the FFAW teamed up with various fish processors to form the NL Groundfish Industry Development Council (GIDC), which is also a member of the 3Ps cod recovery working group.
And it was the GIDC that came up with the management plans for northern cod in 2016/17 — not DFO or the Government of Canada, which is constitutionally responsible for fisheries management. That story is laid out here.
Back then there was also no consultation whatsoever with inshore harvesters, despite the major policy shift to weekly quotas from IQs or individual quotas.
FISHERMEN YET TO BE CONSULTED — AGAIN
Inshore harvesters also haven't been widely consulted on a 3Ps cod rebuilding plan.
In the past, the inshore fleet has demanded that offshore draggers be banned from fishing the 3Ps cod stock until the quota reaches above 10,000 tonnes, which harvesters had been led to believe was federal government policy.
They were misled.
That should be a hill the FFAW is prepared to die on for the inshore, but the union also represents workers aboard the offshore draggers, which fish spawning and pre-spawning congregations of cod on the St. Pierre Bank.
And so the FFAW doesn't die on any hills.
SEA-NL also wrote about 3Ps cod here: DFO won't confirm whether draggers still fishing south coast cod, but some offshore quota taken