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Foreign draggers as bad as seals; must also be addressed: SEA-NL

Updated: May 14, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, May 13th, 2022

The Portuguese factory-freezer dragger Nova Virgem Da Barca has been issued five "notices of infringements" since 2017 by Canadian enforcement officers for fishery violations including misreporting catches, use of undersized mesh, and observer intimidation just outside Canada's 200-mile limit.

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) congratulates the Government of Canada for finally recognizing that seals eat fish, but reminds Ottawa that foreign overfishing on/off the Grand Banks is as destructive as ever to commercial stocks.

“Seals aren’t the only killer of fish stocks,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director. “It’s still the wild west outside the 200-mile limit in terms of overfishing by foreign factory-freezer draggers.”

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray said Thursday more research is needed on the impact of seals on dwindling East Coast fish stocks in response to a report that said DFO’s science doesn't go far enough.

DFO, however, must consider all factors — including foreign overfishing — on the health of battered East Coast fish stocks.

Unlike most countries, Canada’s continental shelf off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador extends beyond 200 miles, leaving migratory stocks such as northern cod exposed to foreign overfishing once they swim to the high seas.

High seas fishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, and rich nearby fishing grounds like the Flemish Cap, are regulated by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which is seen as toothless, unable to enforce the quotas it sets.

Under NAFO rules, Canada cannot charge a foreign dragger with illegal fishing. Rather, it is left to the vessel’s home country to investigate a complaint or “notice of infringement” issued by Canadian enforcement officers, and follow up with possible penalties/court action, which amount to a slap on the wrist.

This past March, the Portuguese offshore factory-freezer trawler Nova Virgem Da Barca was issued the fifth “notice of infringement” in six years for fishing violations that include misreporting catches, use of undersized mesh, and observer intimidation.

“It’s obvious that Canadian enforcement actions are not cutting it as a deterrent to foreign overfishing,” Cleary said.

Last October the captain of a Faroe Islands longliner accused "pirate trawlers" of destroying the Grand Banks under the nose of Fisheries and Oceans by directing for moratorium species such as cod and other illegal fishing activities.

“The impact of foreign overfishing on our domestic fisheries may be as big or bigger than that of seals, and Ottawa must act on both fronts,” said Cleary.


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