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No new DFO science on critical south coast (3Ps) cod stock; quota rollover recommended for 2023

The fact that DFO doesn't have any new science on the cod stock off southern Newfoundland in fishing zone 3Ps is both embarrassing in that Canada doesn't have its scientific act together heading into negotiations with the French on a rebuilding plan, and unacceptable to Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of gross federal mismanagement.

DFO held an in-person 3Ps groundfish advisory committee meeting earlier today at its provincial headquarters in east end St. John's. DFO's planned assessment last fall of the 3Ps cod stock did not take place.

According to DFO, the new science vessel John Cabot carried out a survey in 3Ps in 2022, but the data isn't usable because the old science ship, the Alfred Needler, broke down.

A critical step in bringing a new science ship into service is so-called "comparative fishing" — when a new vessel trawls side by side with an older one.

The differences between older and newer ships — trawl performance and noise levels — are then calibrated to ensure continuity in the data series.

By maintaining the data series, comparative fishing ensures DFO can track long-term changes in marine ecosystems.

That didn't happen last year in 3Ps (or other fishing zones around the province), and the end result is limited data this year to contribute to science and stock assessments.

That boils my Newfoundland blood.


Most hands who attended DFO's 3Ps groundfish advisory committee meeting earlier today recommended a rollover of last year's cod quota of 1,346 tonnes.

And while an assessment of 3Ps cod stock did not taking place last fall, Ottawa still hopes to land an agreement with France (St. Pierre/Miquelon) on a rebuilding plan for 3Ps cod for 2023-24.

That must be a challenge with shaky science.

Below is a breakdown of quota-managed fisheries in 3Ps for the last two years. The 2022-2023 cod catch was up over the year before,

Here's a breakdown of who gets what in terms of the quota allocations.

A moratorium was imposed on the 3Ps cod stock in August 1993, reopening in May 1997 with a total allowable catch (TAC) of 10,000 tonnes, and reaching as high as 30,000 tonnes two years later.

The TAC has suffered a severe drop since then.

All three cod stocks adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador are deemed by DFO to be in the critical zone, meaning fishing is to be kept to a minimum.

The federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is expected to announce the 2023 3Ps cod quota by early April.

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 register for the Feb. 25th, 2023 AGM here.

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