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MEDIA RELEASE: Science Outlook for Northern Cod Positive

April 2, 2019

Science Outlook for Northern Cod Positive

April 2, 2019

ST. JOHN’S, NL – Today, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) science branch confirmed that the northern cod stock continues to grow, with the lowest fish harvesting rates in history.

Fish harvesters experienced an unnecessarily high 25 per cent cut in the 2018 fishery as a result of the 2017 assessment. Unsurprising to fish harvesters, last year’s assertion that there was a significant jump in the natural mortality of cod turned out to be inaccurate. The assessment for 2018, which re-evaluated cod status last year, now refutes the overly pessimistic outlook portrayed in the 2017 assessment.

“The northern cod stock has been on an upward trend for over 13 years now, having grown from 10,000 tons at its lowest in 1995 to 398,000 tonnes today. We are pleased that last year’s fluctuation was found to be no cause for concern, and we look forward to continuing to build the industry and prepare for the future,” said Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President.

The 2J3KL cod stock is the third largest stock in the world. The assessment update today indicates that fishing mortality (F) remains very low, averaging 0.02 over the past five years.  This means that the catch of this stock from all sources has averaged about 2 per cent of the fishable biomass; lower than any other cod stock in the world.

Stock Years Range of SSB (t) Blim Current SSB Current F
2J3KL Cod 1983-2019 10,000 – 893,000 851,000 398,000 <0.02
Barents Sea 1946-2016 106,000 – 2,693,000 220,000 1,233,772 0.4
Iceland 1959-2017 121,603 – 936,657 125,000 668,111 0.26

Even within Atlantic Canada, there is no consistent rebuilding plan for cod stocks. The rebuilding plan for 4X5Y cod off the coast of Nova Scotia includes a fishing mortality limit reference of 0.10, five times that of NL despite both stocks considered to be in the critical zone.

“DFO is managing these rebuilding plans independently, with no consistency across the board and with no consideration for the rebuilding plans of other species. As fish harvesters, we have concerns that DFO isn’t looking at the whole picture,” said Basil Goodyear, fish harvester from Lumsden and FFAW-Unifor Inshore Council member

Northern Cod, if managed responsibly and in collaboration with industry, has the potential to provide significant opportunity for a sustainable fishery.

“As northern cod markets rebuild, modest increases in the harvest rates can simultaneously build capacity on land without having any significant impact on the growth of the stock. As it stands, the way DFO is managing this fishery will leave the inshore harvesters and coastal communities shut out of the fishery of the future,” said Sullivan.


Please click here for supporting graphs.  

For media inquiries, please contact:

Courtney Glode
FFAW-Unifor Communications