September 19, 2008

Future of Cod on Newfoundland’s Grand Banks:

A pulse of three to four year old cod showing up on the southern Grand Banks may represent NAFO's last chance to rebuild this severely depleted population. At its 2008 Annual Meeting, being held in Vigo Spain, from September 22-26, NAFO will make decisions on catch levels for fisheries with high cod bycatch that will likely determine the fate of cod on the southern Grand Banks. If caution isn't exercised by setting low catch levels there is a good chance that this recruitment pulse of young cod will be wiped out through bycatch in other fisheries.

Last year, NAFO took an important first step toward southern Grand Banks cod recovery by adopting a strategy that included an immediate bycatch reduction target of 40 per cent for 2008. Currently, NAFO fisheries are dangerously close to exceeding this target with another three months to go in the season. Cod bycatch has been high because the total allowable catches (TACs) of fisheries known for their cod bycatch have been set too high, bycatch reduction measures have not been effective, and cod nursery areas are not protected.

"Establishing protected areas, including in Canadian waters and high-seas territory on the southern Grand Banks, is the surest way to allow nature to rebuild from past abuses," says Dr. Robert Rangeley, Vice President Atlantic, WWF-Canada. "Action to protect important cod habitat and minimize cod bycatch would demonstrate NAFO's commitment to rebuilding cod and the broader Grand Banks ecosystem."

NAFO will also be making decisions on protective measures for vulnerable marine species and habitats, such as coldwater coral forests. In May, WWF recognized the commitment made by NAFO at an Intersessional Meeting in Montreal, to implement the 2006 United Nations General Assembly Resolution (UNGA) on Sustainable Fisheries by assessing the impacts of bottom fishing and protecting vulnerable ecosystems by the December 31, 2008. Scientists have since mapped the distribution of vulnerable ecosystems in the NAFO Regulatory Area so NAFO is poised to implement concrete on the water protection before the UNGA Resolution deadline.

Next week, WWF will be in Spain, working to ensure that NAFO lives up to its commitments to minimize cod bycatch and implement management measures needed to prevent significant adverse impacts to vulnerable marine ecosystems, by January 1, 2009.

 Contacts: WWF-Canada, Atlantic Region Stacey McCarthy Communications Specialist (902) 482-1105 x 41 or Cell: (902) 209-6457 Email: [email protected] Website: