Support sought for fragile Grand Banks cod recovery



Posted on 16 September 2010  | 
The cod stocks of the Grand Banks, Canada, once seemed inexhaustible. But in 1992 the cod fishery was finally deemed to have collapsed - and some 40,000 people lost their jobs overnight, including 10,000 fishermen. More than 10 years later, the cod have still not recovered.
The cod stocks of the Grand Banks, Canada, once seemed inexhaustible. But in 1992 the cod fishery was finally deemed to have collapsed - and some 40,000 people lost their jobs overnight, including 10,000 fishermen. More than 10 years later, the cod have still not recovered.
© WWF-Canon / Mike R JacksonEnlarge
Halifax, Canada: An apparent recovery in cod numbers on the Grand Banks off Canada may signal an eventual return of what was once one of the world’s major fisheries, but securing recovery will require significant commitments at the September 20-24 meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO).

While the nearly 70 per cent increase in fish numbers and increase in the proportion of spawning fish since the last assessment in 2007 is yet another encouraging reflection of the impact of a 16 year moratorium on catching Grand Banks cod, WWF experts are cautioning that recovery is still far from inevitable.

Failure to address bycatch will prevent cod recovery

Overall stock numbers are still near historic lows, and scientific projections from the latest stock assessments clearly demonstrate that continued failure to control excessive bycatch will prevent cod recovery in the foreseeable future.

“These new signs of recovery present a real opportunity,” said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Vice President of WWF-Canada, Atlantic Region.

“Management tools that include targets, limit reference points and harvest control rules to rebuild stocks are already being used with success in national waters. NAFO needs to act on the commitments they have already made by using these same types of tools to allow further stock growth.”

However, NAFO itself has something of a mixed record in discharging its responsibilities. Its 2007 rebuilding strategy for Grand Banks cod included voluntary bycatch reduction target which were exceeded by 119 percent in 2008 and 162 percent in 2009. Despite the failures, no new measures were implemented by NAFO at the 2009 Annual Meeting

In re-opening the Flemish Cap cod fishery after it reached rebuilding targets after a 10 year moratorium, NAFO also set total allowable catch (TAC) limits of 5500 tonnes, some 33 percent higher than the 4126 tonne precautionary level recommended by its own scientific advisory council.

“If the science isn't enough to spur action, we hope economics will be,” Dr. Rangeley said.

Pressure from retailers for sustainable seafood could help


“With increasing numbers of retailers pledging to source only sustainable seafood, many are dropping depleted stocks from their seafood supply in favor of those that meet the criteria for well managed fisheries.
NAFO should ensure that the precautionary approach is applied to all fish stocks in the NRA, and that priority habitats are protected, so that its fisheries can meet new seafood standards and remain globally competitive."

In addition to cod rebuilding measures, WWF will also be calling on NAFO to strengthen its commitment to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) at this meeting.

Protected habitats set to expire in December 2010

In recent years, NAFO has taken several important steps to protecting vulnerable habitats, and last year closed 11 additional areas to bottom fishing activities. However, current closures that include the Orphan Knoll and a number of seamounts will expire in December.

At next week’s annual meeting, NAFO should designate the Orphan Knoll and seamounts as VMEs, and close these and other vulnerable areas to deep-sea fisheries until impact assessments have been completed and management measures are in place to prevent significant adverse impacts.

The environment and the economy will benefit from smart management

“All of the scientific data and seafood market trends are pointing to one conclusive message”, said Dr. Bettina Saier, Oceans Director, WWF-Canada.

“NAFO must act now to secure the fragile recovery of Grand Banks cod and other fish populations, and to protect vulnerable habitats. This will yield considerable long term ecological and economic benefits.”

For further information:

Stacey McCarthy
Communications Manager
WWF-Canada
Tel: 902.482.1105 x 41
Cell: 902.229.6066
Email: smccarthy@wwfcanada.org

Dr. Robert Rangeley
Vice President, Atlantic Region
WWF-Canada
Tel: 902.482.1105 x 23
Cell: 902.401.1569
Email: rrangeley@wwfcanada.org

About WWF

WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with more than 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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The cod stocks of the Grand Banks, Canada, once seemed inexhaustible. But in 1992 the cod fishery was finally deemed to have collapsed - and some 40,000 people lost their jobs overnight, including 10,000 fishermen. More than 10 years later, the cod have still not recovered.
The cod stocks of the Grand Banks, Canada, once seemed inexhaustible. But in 1992 the cod fishery was finally deemed to have collapsed - and some 40,000 people lost their jobs overnight, including 10,000 fishermen. More than 10 years later, the cod have still not recovered.
© WWF-Canon / Mike R Jackson Enlarge

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