top of page

DFO science not getting done (and all fishery management decisions suspect because of it)

The CBC reports DFO's fall science survey off Newfoundland and Labrador will be “largely missed” for the 3rd straight year — weeks after a former Assistant Deputy Minister in Ottawa went on public record to say poor science is undermining the department's ability to manage fish stocks. The science isn't getting done, which translates into a department managing fish stocks blind.

The Canadian Coast Guard ship Alfred Needler is scheduled to be replaced this year. Ottawa spent almost $780 million on three offshore science vessels to carry out offshore surveys, but has had trouble getting them in the water, and has missed multiple surveys as a result.

Carey Bonnell of Ocean Choice International (OCI) tells the CBC he's been told by DFO the fall science survey off Newfoundland will be largely missed for a third straight year, and there will be limited data in 2023 to contribute to science and stock assessment.

DFO apparently missed most of the spring survey off Newfoundland this year, and eastern Nova Scotia got no coverage at all during the 2022 summer survey.

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, as the CBC reports, 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.

That apparently hasn't happened yet.

The DFO science vessel Teleost tied up in St. John's harbour.

Meantime, a House of Commons committee has been studying DFO science, and at least one recent witness said in October that DFO science advice often is not "adequate" for fishery management.

Morley Knight, a Newfoundlander who retired 5 years ago as DFO’s assistant deputy minister for fisheries policy in Ottawa, broke down the problems into four categories: lack of results; science programs/scientists married to theoretical processes and models; reliance on only science source information (not fishermen on the water); and poor communications.


DFO said as late as last year the seal population is not a major factor in declining fish stocks.

However, department officials said last week in St. John's that seals at current population levels are impacting the recovery of groundfish and pelagic stocks, despite the fact there’s been no fundamental change in seal science.

In other science news, Jan Woodford, who served 23 years as DFO's regional director of communications in St. John's, was appointed this past September as associate regional director of science.

From where I sit, faith in DFO science has never been so low, and the distance between scientists in the White Hills and fishermen on the water has never been so great.

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.

128 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page