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In cod we (used to) trust

The northern cod fishery is set to get under way off Newfoundland Sunday morning (Labrador will open Aug. 1st), but most fishermen don’t rely on it a fraction of what they used to, and DFO's science is challenged as not "scientifically credible."

Fogo Island fishermen, September 2019.

For the over 40’ fleet, northern cod represented a grand total of 1% (that's one per cent) of its total fishing income in 2019, compared to 16% for the under 40’ fleet.

Find those stats right here in DFO’s northern cod rebuilding plan, which was released in 2019 — 27 years after the stock collapse (but who’s counting).

The 1,865 licensed inshore harvesters who had access to northern cod in 2019 (only 1,439 actually fished it) represent a staggering 90% decline from the 20,021 full- and part-time harvesters on the water in 1992.

Of course, no one could blame harvesters for moving on from cod.

In 2021, Grade A cod today will fetch 73¢/lb to the harvester — only 7¢/lb more than what they get for the squid (66¢/lb) that's used as bait to catch snow crab ($7.60/lb)

Cod is actually worth the same today to the harvester as it was 20 years ago.


DFO science classifies northern cod in the critical zone, meaning fishing is to be kept to the lowest possible level.

This years' quota is 12,999 tonnes a 5% increase from last year's 12,350 tonnes, which is at least partly reflective of the massive gap between DFO science and what inshore harvesters report seeing on the water.

But independent cod scientists Jeffrey A. Hutchings, George A. Rose, Peter A. Shelton published a paper this past March titled, "The flawed new plan to rebuild Canada's iconic northern cod." (Find it here.)


1) Not legally binding.

2) Can be modified at any time.

3) No rebuilding targets.

The other problem with the rebuilding plan is that it's based on a mathematical model that reveals overfishing wasn't what led to the 1992 moratorium (biggest layoff in Canadian history; 30,000-40,000 thrown out of work).

Rather, there was massive sudden die of cod — one that DFO scientists can't explain.

Despite that aspect of the model not being "scientifically credible," the independent scientists said it's still the element upon which DFO's northern cod rebuilding plan "entirely hangs its scientific credentials."

This is how the scientists ended their paper:

It's beyond me how anyone could disagree with an independent assessment of DFO's scientific capabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Beyond me.

Ryan Cleary,


Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.

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