The FFAW said recently draggers “did not fish” the delicate south coast cod stock in fishing zone 3Ps this year, but Fisheries and Oceans won’t reveal the landings by the offshore sector. An official will say some of offshore quota has been taken, but DFO refuses to reveal the amount due to the "rule of five."
The 2021/2022 total allowable catch for 3Ps cod was set at 1,376 tonnes, a 50% cut from 2020. DFO scientists recently categorized the 3PS stock in the critical zone with little chance of significant improvement until at least 2024.
Under the "rule of 5," DFO won't release fishery-related information (landings) when fewer than five licence holders are involved in a fishery, which is apparently the case with the 3Ps offshore cod fishery.
"The Department is unable to provide the landings of 3Ps cod by the offshore fleet sector, as it does not meet privacy provisions for external release," an official said.
The rule of 5 is ridiculous.
Transparency should override private interests in the case of a common property resource like codfish, or any other commercial fish stock.
Problems with "the rule of 5" have been pointed out before — including how it prevents decision makers from being "accurately informed" by withholding information from them and the public.
DFO will only say there have been cod landings by the offshore draggers so far this year (from either directed fishing or bycatch), and the 3Ps fishery will remain open to the offshore fleet until the end of February.
The offshore fishery didn't have much a directed cod fishery this year because the draggers — which traditionally fish during pre-spawning and spawning season — hardly had any quota to catch.
Or, as the FFAW so delicately put it, "diminished economic opportunity."
But then the union has to watch its words when the FFAW represents inshore fishermen and offshore trawlermen — a conflict of interest if there ever was one.
The FFAW even credited the offshore sector for its actions.
“Having the offshore draggers stop fishing cod in 3Ps was the first step to helping the stock," the union said in a statement.
Again, the offshore didn't so much stop fishing on its own accord as the draggers ran out of quota.
What the FFAW should have demanded on behalf of inshore harvesters was that the offshore be banned altogether from fishing 3Ps cod until the quota reaches over 10,000 tonnes.
The union has made that demand before, but a press release once a year doesn't cut it (obviously).
Months after DFO floated idea of 3Ps moratorium, south coast cod landings this fall were reportedly the best in 25 years. SEA-NL wrote about it here.
It's fair to say that fishermen today have little faith in DFO science.
In fact, the divide between DFO science and fishermen is greater now than the early 1990s when the commercial cod fisheries were first shut down.
At least back then the divide was acknowledged, and addressed.
Today it's completely ignored.