FISH-NL recommends Ottawa cancel 2017 sentinel cod program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 16, 2017 

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) recommends that Ottawa cancel the 2017 sentinel cod program, a series of tests fisheries around the province first introduced when stocks were under moratoria.

cod-fish.JPG

“The sentinel fisheries have become a waste of taxpayers’ money because the model was developed for the moratoria years, and the uncertainties in the data means it has little to no impact when it is used in the assessment model,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “It appears the catch data may have also been negatively impacted by the resumption of the commercial fisheries and other factors.”

The federal government first introduced sentinel cod fisheries in the mid-1990s, the moratoria years, to keep a first-hand check of the health of cod stocks in the absence of commercial fisheries. It has never been adjusted to account for or to incorporate the impacts of commercial activity.

There are two major sentinel programs every year: one off Labrador and the island’s east coast (the so-called northern cod zone — 2J,3KL),  as well as off the island’s south coast (fishing zone 3Ps); and a second off the island’s west coast, and southwestern Newfoundland (fishing zones 4R/3Pn).

The programs involve upwards of roughly 70 fixed, test fishery sites, costing taxpayers an estimated $1.1 million a year. Funds are also raised from the sale of cod caught in the sentinel fisheries, an estimated 300 tonnes, but it’s not known where that money goes. 

The sentinel fisheries contracts have been sole-sourced every year to the FFAW-Unifor until this year, when FISH-NL requested that Public Services and Procurement Canada open the contracts to a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

Public Services agreed, and the RFP deadline expired 2 p.m. Friday, June 16th. FISH-NL chose not to submit a bid.

“FISH-NL consulted with harvesters and experts in the scientific community who feel the sentinel fisheries program as it exists right now is obsolete,” Cleary says. “We couldn’t submit a bid in good conscience — as it is currently structured it is a waste of  taxpayers money, it is not reflective of what inshore fish harvesters have observed and witnessed when they are fishing commercially and the uncertainties in the data means it has little to no impact on the assessment model.”

While inshore harvesters have reported a huge increase in the amount of northern cod, the catch rates in the sentinel fisheries have actually declined by 25 per cent over the last two years.

On behalf of its fish harvester members, FISH-NL calls upon DFO to stop wasting valuable resources, money and people, and develop and implement a program that is reflective of today’s reality. 

Inshore harvesters can provide valuable data from their current and future commercial activity and the sentinel cod fisheries program — which duplicates commercial activity — should be halted immediately.

-30-