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Northern Cod Reassessment Grounds for Increased Stewardship Fishery and Government’s Commitment to NL Inshore

May 2, 2024

The position of the Fish, Food, and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) on access and allocation for Northern cod remains the same as historically recorded, with the first 115,000t being allocated to the inshore sector and Indigenous groups. 

Not only is this the FFAW’s position, but this has also been the documented position of the federal government for decades, most recently in 2021 within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) Integrated Fisheries Management Plan:

“When a total allowable catch (TAC) for Northern (2J3KL) cod is established, the first 115,000 t of directed Canadian access will be allocated to the inshore sector and Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador. At a TAC level less than or equal to 115,000 t, directed fishing activity will be limited to inshore harvesters and Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Northern cod, fished under the 2J3KL Stewardship Fishery, is a population of the Atlantic cod species that inhabits the waters between the tip of the Grand Banks, in eastern Newfoundland, all the way to Hopedale, Labrador. DFO held the technical briefing for the 2J3KL Northern Cod stock on March 26th, highlighting stability of the stock overall. Changes to the stock assessment model have brought the historic species out of the critical zone, and harvesters are hopeful that will mean corresponding increases to harvest amounts. As it stands, last year’s quota rollover sustained only a few days’ work for harvesters and plant workers. 

Lee Melindy, a harvester in area 3K, attended the technical briefing and explained that the stock is showing excellent health. “The fish were bigger and fatter the longer we fished into the fall, and that tells me that the stock is in good order. We are getting an average of up to two pounds per hook on longlines in the fall, which is considered excellent fishing in other countries that use longlines.”

FFAW has reiterated its position to DFO repeatedly since the Union’s first meeting with Minister Diane Lebouthillier on January 15th, assuring that the inshore owner-operator fleet has the capacity to harvest the first 115,000 metric tonnes of Northern cod with ease. Moreover, it is extremely important for federal government to make good on its commitment to coastal Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This longstanding commitment ensures that as the stock rebounds, the benefits of the Northern cod fishery will flow to inshore fish harvesters as well as processing plant workers,” said Greg Pretty, FFAW-Unifor President. “Harvesters have done enormous work to protect and grow the resource, and they must be the primary beneficiaries. Increasing the Northern cod harvest amount this season is an opportunity to diversify and reduce the pressure surrounding EI for all seasonal workers in the sector. Not only is Northern cod historically significant to our industry and our province, but the revitalization of a commercial fishery presents great opportunity for the future of enterprise owners and rural communities.”