Veteran fishermen like Placentia’s Calvin Kerrivan question Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) science — not just on cod in fishing zone 3Ps off Newfoundland's south coast, but on snow crab in the same waters, which scientists had (wrongly) predicted wouldn’t return for years.
The 3Ps cod fishery was shut down in 1993, but reopened in 1997 with a quota of 10,000 tonnes. Since then the quota has jumped to a high as 30,000 tonnes in 1999 to this year's low of 1,345 tonnes, half of the 2020 allocation.
Kerrivan said cod fishing has been exceptionally good this fall from Placentia to Arnold's Cove, and on the St. Pierre Bank, with catch rates comparable to 1997 when the fishery reopened after a four-year shut down. Find year-to-date landings here.
Kerrivan said now is the time to fish cod in Placentia Bay, with good fishing continuing until January or February. Using 30 nets on a recent trip his boat caught between 6,000-30,000/lbs a set.
It was only in March that DFO floated the idea of a moratorium on the 3Ps cod fishery,
At the same time, then-provincial Fisheries Minister Elvis Loveless questioned DFO's science, "citing concerns over modelling and the science used to recommend ending the fishery."
Indeed, in 2020 there was no Canadian bottom trawl survey. Of the 28 people who took part in the most recent stock assessment (most of whom were with DFO science), there was one single harvester (Brian Careen).
Kerrivan said going back to his grandfather's days there were good years and bad years for cod fishing in 3Ps, questioning how scientists would really know what's going on with no experience on the water.
Kerrivan served on the 3Ps crab committee in 2017 when he said DFO snow crab scientist Darrell Mullowney predicted the south coast stock wouldn't return for 12-14 years.
"I laid a $100 bill on the table then in Clarenville, and I said the crab will be great until 2022 or '23 and then start dying off again," said Kerrivan. "They wouldn't believe me, I'm only a stupid fisherman."
Kerrivan was right. The 3Ps crab fishery turned around after 2017, with the quota increasing 235% since then.
3Ps snow crab quota
2021 5,047 tonnes,
2020 3,292 tonnes,
2019 2,649 tonnes,
2018 1,792 tonnes
2017 1,505 tonnes
2016 3,010 tonnes
2015 4,300 tonnes
2014 6,185 tonnes
2013 6,835 tonnes
Kerrivan said DFO science was wrong about the crab, and now they're wrong about the cod.
He said DFO scientists should spend less time in front of computers, and more time listening to inshore harvesters.
3Ps fishermen are reporting great cod catches this fall. Picture taken from video posted Monday to the private group, Newfoundland Fisherman's Forum, on Facebook.
The inshore fleet on the south had been led to believe the first 10,000 tonnes of cod quota in 3Ps were reserved for them, the same way the first 115,000 tonnes of northern cod off Newfoundland’s east coast/Labrador are supposedly set aside for the inshore fleet (plus indigenous groups, but that's another story).
Only that wasn’t the case in 3Ps, and DFO allowed offshore factory-freezer draggers to pound away at the stock.
Even this year with the cod quota down to 1,345 tonnes the offshore sector is allowed to fish its 12.2% share. when the stock is at its most vulnerable — overwintering on the St. Pierre Bank in pre-spawning/spawning congregations.
Inshore fishermen fear a shut down of the inshore cod fishery in 3Ps — combined with any drop in snow crab prices, or reduction in the overall crab quota — could spell doom for the south coast fishery.
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