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DFO’s rule of 5 keeps commercial catch data secret from NLers/Canadians; scientists also concerned

The so-called "rule of five" means if there are fewer than five license holders fishing a particular stock, Fisheries and Oceans will not release the catch data to protect their privacy. In the case of the cod fishery off Newfoundland's south coast in fishing zone 3Ps, that means DFO won't reveal how much of the 2021/22 quota has been taken.

Fishing boats near the Placentia lift bridge on a recent winter day.

Canada's share of the 2021/22 3Ps cod allocation is 1,118 tonnes, but while DFO gives a breakdown of the catch by the fixed-gear inshore fleet, the rest of the catch information is withheld as the result of the "rule of five."

DFO released the above graph last week during a virtual meeting of an advisory group assigned to recommend this year’s cod quota for the 3Ps cod stock. The catch information is withheld for three different fleets — the largest being the offshore dragger sector.

At one point during the virtual meeting a DFO stock assessment biologist echoed concerns expressed by St. Bride's fisherman Brian Careen, a member of the FFAW's inshore council, over the rule of five.

The biologist described the withholding of information as a "barrier" to the work of science.

From SEA-NL's perspective, the rule of 5 is ridiculous — fish is a common-property resource to which no individual has exclusive property rights, and the public's right to know should trump any privacy concerns.

One last note on DFO's advisory group meeting last week on 3Ps cod.

The meeting was well attended by four or five inshore fishermen after SEA-NL had revealed their lack of involvement in an ongoing process to develop a rebuilding plan for 3Ps cod.

A DFO official noted the department had approved an FFAW request to include more inshore harvesters in the rebuilding plan working group, but the union failed to do so.

Ryan Cleary,


SEA-NL founding convention will be held virtually on Feb. 8th, 2021, and will be open to all owner-operator members in good standing. To join SEA-NL go here.

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