FISH-NL calls for resurrection of arm’s-length body to bridge massive divide between science and inshore harvesters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, Feb. 8th, 2019

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on Ottawa to resurrect the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) to bridge the enormous divide between fishermen and scientists over the state of fish stocks — northern cod in particular.

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“DFO scientists and inshore harvesters are once again complete strangers, just like in the early 1990s when the commercial fisheries failed,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “Another council should be formed immediately to bridge the divide between what fishermen are seeing on the water, and what scientists are seeing in their highly suspect mathematical models.”

The FRCC, an arm’s-length federal advisory body, was created in 1993 — the year after the northern cod moratorium — to address the divide at the time between DFO science and the fishing industry. The FRCC’s role was to listen to all sides and provide advice to the federal minister on quotas, but the organization was disbanded in 2011 by the Harper administration.

The 2018 total allowable catch (TAC) for northern cod was 9,500 tonnes, but some inshore harvesters say the quota should be much higher this year because the fish have never been more plentiful. At the same time, DFO science has said the stock remains in the critical zone, keeping removals should be kept at the lowest possible level. 

The latest DFO science on the state of the northern cod stock is expected in March. 

During DFO’s current round of provide wide, face-to-face meetings with inshore harvesters, the FFAW-Unifor has called for a 2019 northern cod quota of 35,000-tonnes — a 268 per cent increase from last year. 

FISH-NL is calling on the FFAW-Unifor to release the results of the sentinel or test fisheries for northern cod that the union has run in waters around the province since the mid-1990s. In 2017, the sentinel contracts were worth $1.1 million to the union, which also kept the money from the sale of the fish.

“The FFAW should know first-hand from the sentinel surveys whether northern cod is up or down,” Cleary said. “It’s time to lay all the information on the table.”

Cleary added a resurrected FRCC could also help deal with the highly controversial proposed new management plan for snow crab known as the Precautionary Approach, which harvesters and DFO science are butting heads over.

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