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SEA-NL condemns DFO’s backroom plans for rebuilding south coast cod stock

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Monday, Dec. 20th, 2021

The Placentia lift bridges rises to allow entry to an inshore fishing vessel.

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) accuses Fisheries and Oceans of orchestrating a “backroom” plan for rebuilding the cod stock off southern Newfoundland, and excluding the voice of inshore harvesters.

“Any rebuilding attempt that does not include the input of the inshore fleet is doomed,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s interim Executive Director. “When DFO leaves inshore harvesters out of the equation they get the math and science wrong, and the department is doing it again.”

DFO has assembled a working group to develop a rebuilding plan for 3Ps cod, which scientists said in November remains in the critical zone. The group includes department and union officials, fish processors, indigenous interests, and the offshore sector.

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 as high as 30,000 tonnes in 1999 to this year’s low of 1,345 tonnes, half of the 2020 allocation.

The working group held its first meeting in March, and again last week, following which the Atlantic Groudfish Council, representing the offshore, issued an internal memo to its members.

“Generally, all are aligned with potential harvest strategies that allow exploitation to be undertaken in the critical zone,” read the memo, a copy of which was forwarded to SEA-NL.

While harvest control rules have yet to be decided on, the memo said there’s pressure for agreement prior to the working group’s next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 12th.

“That sounds like the offshore draggers still expect to fish the 3Ps cod stock,” said Cleary. “That must not happen, and why this backroom rebuilding plan must be exposed.”

The fishing of pre-spawning and spawning congregations of cod on the St. Pierre Bank by offshore factory-freezer trawlers has been blamed for the failure of the 3Ps cod stock to rebound.

The inshore fleet in 3Ps had been led to believe that offshore draggers would be banned from fishing the cod stock until the quota reaches above 10,000 tonnes. Only that wasn’t the case, and offshore draggers continue to fish.

Most 3Ps inshore harvesters aren’t aware that a cod rebuilding plan is being developed, and DFO has confirmed the department doesn’t intend to hold targeted public meetings to discuss it.

While the FFAW represents inshore harvesters, the union also represents workers aboard offshore draggers, and the plants where the cod could be processed — creating an obvious and long-standing conflict of interest that will result in the inshore fleet not being properly represented.

SEA-NL is calling on DFO to hold targeted meetings with inshore harvesters in 3Ps, and to include representatives of the under and over 40’ fleets in the working group.


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