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Cod Sentinel Program - Frequently Asked Questions

February 23, 2021

Cod Sentinel Program FAQs


1. What is the Cod Sentinel Program?

It is widely believed that the lack of consideration for fish harvesters’ views played a key role in the severe declines that occurred in most Atlantic Canadian groundfish stocks in the early to mid-1990’s. The devastation of the cod moratorium led many inshore harvesters to fight for their seat at the stock assessment table, and over two decades later harvesters continue to play an important role in fisheries science. The Cod Sentinel Survey began in 1995 along the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, providing valuable information for the scientific assessment of cod stocks, including Northern cod, Gulf cod and 3Ps cod. The Program was developed by fish harvesters and FFAW-Unifor in close collaboration with DFO, and represents an iconic example of incorporating the traditional knowledge and experience of fish harvesters into the DFO assessment process.

The overall goals of the Sentinel survey include tracking catch rates and distribution of cod in the inshore, collecting key biological information on fish size, growth and feeding patterns and incorporating the knowledge and information from inshore fish harvesters in the stock assessment process.

Prior to the Cod Sentinel Program, there was limited information from the inshore. The Sentinel Survey began, in part, to addresses the wide gap between fish harvesters’ observations and fisheries assessment science.

2. Who participates in the survey?

Each year, fish harvesters contribute vital data on catch rates, biological characteristics, and geographical distribution, from inshore fishing vessels for the 2J3KLPs (50) and 4R3Pn (18) areas. The data collected has provided a long-term index to better understand cod stocks around Newfoundland and Labrador. Information for these valued cod stocks is collected by harvesters throughout all stock areas across Newfoundland and Labrador – from Black Tickle in Labrador (2J) to Noddy Bay on the Great Northern Peninsula, and 66 sites covering NAFO divisions 2J, 3K, 3L, 3Ps, 3Pn, and 4R.

The Union does not own a quota of fish in the Gulf (4R) or anywhere else in the province. There is a portion of the overall cod quota that is allocated by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for scientific purposes. In the Sentinel fishery, harvesters are paid a weekly charter rate based their vessel size and must follow robust protocols while collecting scientific information. Their rate of pay is unrelated to the amount of fish they catch.

3. What information is collected and how is it used?

Information on cod fish catch rates, sex ratios, length and ages of fish are collected from a fixed site and an experimental site. This information is used to track when cod move into and out of the inshore, catch rates and relative abundance and the distribution on cod in the inshore. Harvesters collect samples to be used by DFO to track cod growth, health and feeding patterns.

4. Why does the FFAW lead this Program?

The Sentinel Survey Program was developed collaboratively by FFAW and DFO Science to gather information and integrate harvester’s knowledge into the fisheries science throughout the stock areas. The FFAW applies to lead this Program through the regular government procurement process with Public Works and Government Services Canada. Because FFAW represents such a broad range of fish harvesters throughout the province and has considerable expertise coordinating long-term science and monitoring programs, we have been successful in our ongoing applications to lead the Program.

5. Where can I get more information?
Current research and Program status will be discussed in general membership meetings, as well as upcoming issues of the Union Forum magazine. If you would like more information on upcoming meetings and discussions, contact your FFAW Staff Rep and Inshore Council member.