In light of a new assessment highlighting the precarious state of the 3Ps cod stock, Oceans North is calling for a temporary closure of the commercial fishery in order to allow the best chance of growth.
“Closing a fishery is a last resort,” says Katie Schleit, Director of Fisheries at Oceans North. “However, given the dire predictions for the stock’s future and the lack of action taken in the past, this is one of the few things we can do now to improve the likelihood of recovery.”
The 3Ps cod stock is located off southern Newfoundland and is shared with France. The latest assessment conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) confirms that it has been in the critical zone since 2000 and is currently at 55 percent of the limit reference point. According to DFO policy, fishing should be kept to a minimum when the stock is below this point so that it has the opportunity to grow.
DFO is currently working on a rebuilding plan for this stock and has until April 2024 to finalize it. As a member of the DFO’s groundfish advisory committee, Oceans North has worked hard to ensure the plan is as robust as possible. “Under the Fisheries Act, DFO has a legal obligation to rebuild fish stocks out of the critical zone,” explains Gemma Rayner, Oceans North’s Fisheries and Special Projects Advisor. “We’re calling on them to meet their commitments.”
Unfortunately, the future for 3Ps cod looks uncertain. Environmental conditions that were considered in the assessment reveal that low recruitment and high natural mortality as well as continued fishery removals are delaying any potential recovery. Meanwhile, the structure of the ecosystem is being altered by climate change, and warm water fish species such as silver hake are beginning to dominate the area that was once dominated by cod.
“In the face of the climate crisis, precautionary and ecosystem-based management approaches are more important than ever,” Schleit says. “If we want resilient, abundant fisheries going forward, we’re going to have to make some changes.”
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