FISH-NL advises Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc to cancel 2017 sentinel cod program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 26th, 2017

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) has written federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc recommending that he cancel the 2017 sentinel cod program.

 

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

The program involves 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 350 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with harvesters and experts in the scientific community who feel the sentinel fisheries program as it exists right now is obsolete,” Cleary says.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.”

Meantime, FISH-NL has consulted with fish harvesters/the scientific community on a revamped program whereby participants would contribute to a data-collection program that is more reliable, and a program that would cost taxpayers significantly less money. 

FISH-NL has offered to meet with the Minister or DFO officials to elaborate.

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June 26th, 2017

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans 

200 Kent Street, Centennial Towers

13th Floor (Station 15N0E6)

Ottawa, ON 

K1AOE6

min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

 

Dear Minister,

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) recommends that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans cancel the 2017 sentinel cod program in the province.

In short, the sentinel or test fisheries have become a waste of taxpayers’ money because the model was developed for the moratoria years of the 1990s, and the uncertainties in the data — primarily as a result of the resumption of commercial fisheries — means the information has little to no impact on the assessment model.

The sentinel program is broken and out-dated. While none of our cod stocks are currently under moratoria, the data collection protocols of the cod sentinel program are unchanged from 1995.

FISH-NL’s  membership is adamant that the survival of the fishing industry hinges on a new, collaborative approach between science and inshore fish harvesters. 

As you know, Mr. Minister, there are two major sentinel programs every year: one program 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 program 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. As well, an estimated 350 tonnes of cod is caught and sold each year in the sentinel fisheries, although it’s unclear what happens with money from the sale of that fish. 

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 current sentinel program is obsolete. 

Inshore harvesters and independent scientists say the catch per unit of effort (CPUE) index from the cod sentinel program is impacted by the resumption of commercial activity. 

In fact, FISH-NL has learned that the cod sentinel indices have never been used in the assessment model for 3Ps cod because of uncertainties in the data, and the index has little or no impact on the assessment model for northern cod. 

Dr. Noel Cadigan, a research scientist with the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research at the Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, has acknowledged that the northern cod assessment model isn’t influenced by the cod sentinel index.

The sentinel index in 3Ps plummeted shortly after the commercial cod fishery was reopened there, and it has not shown any increase since.   

In the northern cod  zone, cod catches in the sentinel fishery declined by roughly 25 per cent during 2015 and 2016 — coinciding with the resumption of the commercial or stewardship fishery. 

Catches in the sentinel fishery also declined in the early 2000s when the commercial cod fishery reopened then for a short time.

FISH-NL could not submit a bid in good conscience. The program is not reflective of what inshore fish harvesters have observed and witnessed on the water. 

On behalf of our 2,500 fish harvester members, FISH-NL calls upon DFO to stop wasting valuable resources, money and personnel, and develop and implement a program that is reflective of today’s fishing reality. 

FISH-NL takes the approach that we must do the right things for the right reasons.  

To that end, we have consulted with fish harvesters on a program whereby participants would contribute to a data-collection program that is more reliable, and a program that would cost taxpayers significantly less money. 

We would be prepared to meet with you or DFO officials at your convenience to elaborate on our proposal. 

Sincerely, 

 

Ryan Cleary, 

President of FISH-NL