Closed areas and the future of the fishery

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Aly Thomson’s article “Some fish species may never bounce back,” April 19, underscores the reluctance of our Department of Fisheries and Oceans senior management in Ottawa to take action and implement sustainable ocean habitat recovery programs. The study, which looked at 153 fish and invertebrate species, found that most could recover within a decade if swift action is taken to stop overfishing.

As we are well aware, the response to the cod collapse in Newfoundland and Labrador was the cod moratorium in the early 1990s. When cod showed indications of some recovery in the late 1990s, there was considerable political pressure to reopen the fishery. This was shortly followed by another collapse and closure in the early 2000s, followed by small-scale cod fishery from 2007 to the present.     

Many in Newfoundland and Labrador associate cod recovery and caplin recovery with ocean recovery — that is, if we are seeing more cod and more caplin, then ocean habitat must be recovering. However, it has become clear from current habitat-based research that the foundation for cod recovery is based in identifying, supporting and protecting ocean areas containing a full range of biodiverse species in abundance.

Establishing conditions for such key ocean habitats to rebuild the ocean food web is necessary if recovery of large-scale commercial fish stocks such as cod and other groundfish species is to be realized.  

Other countries and jurisdictions have proven that there are steps which can be taken to turn this situation around, the primary step being the establishment of large closed areas and no-take zones.

Norway established no-fishing zones when they started catching large quantities of small cod approximately 15 years ago. They expanded the no-fishing zones dramatically over the ensuing period to the point where, in 2011, they had 1.1 million square kilometers of ocean closed to all fishing activity.

During the same period, their cod stocks recovered dramatically, with quotas set at 700,000 metric tonnes in 2010 and 2011. This year their cod quota has been set at one million tonnes.

Similarly, other jurisdictions in the North Atlantic such as the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Scotland and the United States have all implemented no-

fishing zones and all have experienced recoveries in their ocean habitats and commercial fisheries

Over the past 10 years or so, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has attempted, under the Oceans Act, to implement a  recovery strategy using closed areas, marine protected areas and no-take zones. The strategy has been met with stiff opposition from oil companies, fishing companies and some fishermen.

The ocean is the most powerful and resilient natural system on the planet. It is probably the single largest force which permits human life. Newfoundland and Labrador’s long-term economic future is tied directly to developing sustainable commercial fisheries and employing appropriate fishing technologies and fishing practices to maintain it.

We need to urge our leaders, be they political, business or otherwise to take the appropriate steps to rethink our current fisheries management practices and policies which are not sustainable and replace them with ones that are.

The Atlantic Ocean off our shores is an extremely valuable asset. We need a vision and a plan to protect and restore its reproductive and renewable capacity for the benefit of this and future generations.

Fred Winsor is conservation chair with Sierra Club Canada. He writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Sierra Club Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Norway North Atlantic Faroe Islands Iceland Scotland United States Canada Atlantic Ocean

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Recent comments

  • H JEFFORD
    April 30, 2013 - 19:39

    The only way for any fish species to rebuild it's stock is with man's help! Man has almost destroyed the fish stock with the use of draggers that destroy all in their path and only man can help rebuild it, I have a paper published by the DEPT OF FISHERIES CALLED ONE IN A MILLION, that tells how one cod egg in a million survives to become an adult cod, this paper was published 30+ years ago if only one in a million survived to become an adult cod fish 30+ years ago when fish were plenty full HOW low MUST it BE now? MAN HAS DESTROYED THE FISH STOCK AND ONLY MAN CAN REBUILD IT, IF FISH WAS HATCHED IN THE FISH HATCHERY AND THE YOUNG FISH RAISED UNTIL THEY ARE A FEW WEEKS OLD OR A SET PEROD OF TIME THEN RELEASED THEM INTO THE SMALL COVES AND BAYS AROUND THE ISLAND TO HELP NATURE REBUILD THE FISH STOCKS ALL AROUND THE ISLAND THEN MABEY THE SURVIVAL RATE OF COD FISH WILL INCREASE FROM ONE IN A MILLION 30+ YEARS AGO TO MANY HUNDREDS IN A MILLION, MAN HAS ALMOST DESTROYED THE FISH STOCK AND ONLY MAN CAN HELP REBUILD IT, WITH THE HELP OF A FISH HATCHERY. TO CHANGE THE SURVIVAL RATE FROM ONE IN A MILLION TO MANY THOUSANDS IN A MILLION, MAN HAS ALMOST DESTROYED THE FISH STOCK AND ONLY MAN CAN HELP REBUILD IT.

    • a business man
      May 01, 2013 - 11:58

      Sorry. I am not interested in helping rebuild the stock of fishes. If more people can work as fishermen, then I will end up paying for more EI. I would rather not, so I hope the fishery NEVER recovers. From an economic point of view, NFLD does not need fishery anymore. The economy is diversified now. Yes, man has destroyed the fishery, but I am happy that they did. The people of this province ALL deserve better than dirty smelly fishery jobs, so from where I sit, less fish is better.

  • H JEFFORD
    April 30, 2013 - 16:28

    I have a 30+ year old paper produced by the DEPT. of Fisheries CALLED "ONE IN A MILLION " That tells how ONE COD EGG IN A MILLION survives to become an "ADULT COD FISH" This paper was put out 30+ years ago, when fish were plenty full , IF THE SURVIVAL RATE 30+ YEARS AGO WAS ONE COD IN A MILLION, WHEN FISH WERE PLENTY HOW LOW MUST IT BE NOW? IF ONLY ONE COD EGG IN A MILLION SURVIVED TO BECOME AN ADULT COD 30+ YEARS AGO . THE ONLY WAY TO INCREASE THE FISH STOCK IS WITH THE USE OF A FISH HATCHERY WHERE COD EGGS CAN BE HATCHED AND THE YOUNG FISH WHEN THEY REACH A DESIRED SIZE BE RELEASED INTO PROTECTED BAYS AND COVES ALL AROUND THE ISLAND SO THAT THE SURVIVAL RATE OF COD WILL INCREASE TO REBUILD THE COD STOCK THAT HAS BEEN DESTROYED BY THE LARGE FISHING FLEETS MAN HAS DESTROYED THE FISH STOCK, IT IS ONLY WITH MANS HELP THAT THE FISH STOCK CAN BE REBUILT QUICKLY, BY BREEDING COD FISH WITH THE USE OF A FISH HATCHERY THEN RELEASING THEM INTO PROTECTED BAYS AND COVES THE COD SURVIVAL RATE WOULD GO FROM "ONE IN A MILLION' 30+ YEARS AGO TO MANY THOUSANDS IN A MILLION, MAN HAS DESTROYED THE COD STOCK, ONLY MAN CAN HELP REBUILD IT.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 30, 2013 - 07:41

    The EU has for years now availed itself of the benefits of international law. The area extending 200 miles west of Ireland has been designated a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), pursuant to the authority granted to states that are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Such designation allows domestic pollution prevention law (and regulations controlling tanker and other traffic) to extend beyond its present limit of 12 miles, to 200 miles. Do anyone really believe that the area west of Ireland is a more sensitive marine area than the Grand Banks? Why are we doing nothing to protect the Grand Banks, when Canada is also a party to UNCLOS?