ST. JOHN’S, NL – Today’s technical briefing by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) on the 3Ps cod stock assessment delivered more bad news for south coast harvesters who have been raising the alarm on this stock for years. FFAW-Unifor is calling on the federal government to immediately remove offshore trawlers from 3Ps, to re-evaluate the new assessment model as well as to take action on seal predation.
“3Ps harvesters are concerned about the future of the fishery and the impact offshore draggers and seal predation are having on the vulnerable south coast cod stock. Natural mortality from seal predation is driving the trajectory of 3Ps cod, while draggers operating during critical pre-spawning periods threaten any chance of stability,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
The offshore fishery continues to operate during times of high aggregation pre-spawning periods – a time when the fish stock is most susceptible to destruction by draggers.
“It’s imperative that offshore draggers be immediately removed from this area. FFAW-Unifor has strongly objected to the offshore fishery operations on pre-spawning aggregations for several years, yet the federal government has continued to allow the destructive fishery to continue,” says Sullivan.
FFAW-Unifor also takes issue with the new assessment model and Limit Reference Point (LRP) that was hastily implemented without adequate industry consultation.
“According to the new model, the biomass of cod in 3Ps has declined somewhat since the last assessment, however the most notable change from this model is the perception of the stock’s health. Significant gaps in information prevent a comprehensive analysis of the stock. DFO’s assessment must focus on the key drivers of natural mortality, particularly predation,” explains Sullivan.
DFO has made it clear that natural mortality is driving the decline of the 3Ps cod stock, being three times the amount of fishing mortality. Yet despite significant evidence of seal predation being a leading cause of cod mortality, it was not taken into account in this new assessment model.
“For the last ten years, we have been telling DFO Science that the 3Ps cod stock is in trouble and that something must be done. We are on the water; we see the cod, we see the draggers and we see thousands of seals off our shore, and it’s about time someone started listening to us. This information should have been included in the assessment,” said 3Ps fish harvester from Red Harbour, Clayton Moulton.
“Addressing seal predation and removing offshore draggers is within our control and it’s time for the new Minister to take immediate action before the impacts cannot be reversed. It’s clear the current way of doing things is not protecting the sustainability of the fishery or our coastal communities,” concludes Sullivan.
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