November 19, 2021
ST. JOHN’S, NL – Today’s 3Ps cod stock assessment update delivered some good news for harvesters on the province’s south coast, but significant concerns regarding natural mortality and the untold impact of seal predation remain.
“Fish harvesters on the south coast are looking for better science on this cod stock,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “Natural mortality has been driving the stock for many years. We already know that seals are eating a large amount of cod, but DFO needs their scientists to prove it first. Yet several years into this and we’ve made very little headway,” he says.
Scientists reported today that the condition of the fish themselves improved this year, meaning the fish were healthier with thicker fillets. Fish harvesters believe this may be related to increased prey availability.
“This year was the most bait we’ve seen in our bay in over a decade. Herring and capelin, which cod survive on, were all abundant in Placentia Bay this year,” says Corey Hepditch, fish harvester from Baine Harbour.
The 3Ps fishing area experienced substantial quota cuts in the last several years. As a result of diminished economic opportunity, large offshore draggers who traditionally operated during pre-spawning periods did not fish in 2021. Fish harvesters believe that the lack of offshore dragging activity this year was helpful to the struggling stock.
“Catch rates in the bottom of Placentia Bay this fall were the highest I and many other seasoned harvesters have ever seen. The fish were fat, well-fed and in very good condition,” says Brian Careen, fish harvester from St. Brides.
“Having the offshore draggers stop fishing cod in 3Ps was the first step to helping the stock, but the federal government has repeatedly failed to act on seal overpopulation. We cannot fully protect this stock if the ecosystem imbalance is not first understood and addressed,” Sullivan concludes.
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