End of cod moratorium touted after 32 years as Ottawa approves small increase in commercial catch

The federal government has announced a return to the commercial northern cod fishery this year. DFO has managed a limited fishery under strict conditions in recent years. (Brett Favaro, Marine Institute)

Thirty-two years after the federal government announced a moratorium that shut down Newfoundland and Labrador’s cod industry, Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier said Wednesday that it is reopening. 

But what the federal government described in a statement as the “historic return of the commercial northern cod fishery” will amount to just a small increase in fishing activity that had been allowed during the recent years of the moratorium. 

“Ending the northern cod moratorium is a historic milestone for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” Lebouthillier said in a statement. “We will cautiously but optimistically build back this fishery with the prime beneficiaries being coastal and Indigenous communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.” 

The Fisheries and Oceans announcement comes with political overtones.

Much of the text consists of separate statements from all six Liberal MPs in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the announcement comes as the beleaguered Liberals fight against a rising Conservative party as the next federal election looms. 

The total allowable catch (TAC) this year will be 18,000 tonnes, with much of it directed to inshore fleets. 

The TAC, though, is just slightly larger than 13,000 tonnes allowed last year, which was managed by DFO — like many years of the moratorium — under strict conditions. 

By comparison, the TAC in pre-moratorium era was many times higher than it will be this year. For instance, the TAC was 250,000 tonnes in the heavy fishing years of the late 1980s. 

In 1992, then federal minister John Crosbie shut down the northern cod fishery — putting more than 20,000 people out of work in one of the largest industrial layoffs in Canadian history — as cod catches dwindled, and harvesters were alarmed by the sight of smaller and smaller fish. 

man confronts angry crowd
Then federal fisheries minister John Crosbie confronts fishermen in Bay Bulls on July 1, 1992, a day before the cod moratorium came into effect. (CBC)

The moratorium triggered an economic crisis and contributed to a declining population in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in rural areas. 

In October, a scientific assessment moved the northern cod stock from what was called “critical” to “cautious.” 

At the same time, though, DFO said that the northern cod stock had not shown growth since 2016

WATCH | Paul Regular, northern cod stock lead for DFO, explained changes in stocks during a recent interview: 

The good and bad news in DFO’s latest northern cod assessment

It’s steady as she goes for the northern cod stock. But while DFO’s latest science shows the stock has stabilized, it isn’t growing — and is expected to decline in the next few years, even if no fish are taken from the water.

Earlier this year, seafood producers called for a modest hike in commercial activity in northern cod. 

“We’re hoping now with more confidence in the stock we would see a reopening of a commercial cod fishery,” Alberto Wareham, president and CEO of Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove, told CBC News in April. 

Meanwhile, the federal government recently announced the continuation of the recreational cod fishery, also known as the food fishery. That fishery will open this year on each Saturday, Sunday and Monday from June 29 through Sept. 2, and from Sept. 21-29.

Lebouthillier also announced the department intends to eliminate catch and release for tour boat operations in the recreational fishery, and introduce tagging in 2025.

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *