The Department of Fisheries and Oceans provided an update on the 3Ps cod stock today, noting that the species remains in the critical zone with little change from previous updates. The Union that represents fish harvesters is calling on the Department to address the impact of natural mortality on 3Ps cod as well as to ensure inshore harvesters maintain a connection to the important fishery.
The 3Ps cod stock on the south coast of the province, separate from the more widely known 2J3KL northern cod stock, is noted by DFO to remain in the critical zone. However, FFAW-Unifor asks that DFO do more work to better understand removals other than the commercial directed fishery, such as; recreational fishery, seal mortality, and bycatch in other fisheries. Moreover, the Union notes the federal government’s failure to complete the survey last year, meaning the information used at this year’s assessment was not as robust as it should have been.
“3Ps has a migrating cod stock that doesn’t stay inside the Placentia Bay all year,” explains Jamie Barnett, Inshore Council member for St. Brides to Swift Current. “When the water temperatures are right, the stock comes into the bay to feed during the fall and winter months but DFO’s research survey is done in April when most fish have temporarily left the bay. It’s hard to trust the results of this assessment based on how DFO assesses the stock and what we know to be fact in our bays,” Barnett says.
“Fish harvesters in 3Ps have been reporting trouble in that stock for several years, and today’s update comes as no surprise to many. However, the state of this stock is not as a result of fishing pressure as was made clear by DFO today – the trajectory of this stock is determined by natural mortality. We need to ensure the small inshore fishery is able to continue on a modest scale to maintain the important economic and cultural connection,” says FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle.
“3Ps cod is a difficult stock to assess, in part, because of uneven distribution of the stock within 3Ps and potential movement into and out of the stock area. I would like to see increased efforts to understand movement and mixing within 3Ps and with adjacent stock areas. Hopefully, that work will help rebuilding the stock and the fishery,” says Dr. Erin Carruthers, FFAW-Unifor Senior Fisheries Scientist.
While relatively small, the 3Ps cod fishery remains critical for the region and FFAW-Unifor is calling on DFO to ensure that the small inshore fishery maintains a modest fishery into the future while additional work is done to more accurately assess the stock.