September 26, 2008

WWF-Canada: NAFO Decisions Undermine Cod Recovery

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) made decisions that will undermine cod recovery during their annual meeting in Vigo Spain this week. The status of cod on the southern Grand Banks remains severely depleted despite 14 years under fishing moratorium. The outcomes from the meeting demonstrated that there still lacks a sense of urgency to halt levels of bycatch that threaten the recovery of this stock.

Last year NAFO adopted a southern Grand Banks cod recovery strategy to reduce bycatch of cod by 40 per cent. This year NAFO made decisions that will lead to increases in cod bycatch in 2009 without knowing whether this target was met. Of most concern were decisions to increase the yellowtail flounder catch limit, and maintain the thorny skate limit well above scientific recommendations. These decisions have the potential to directly impact cod in 2009.

NAFO did take some important steps towards the protection of vulnerable habitats, such as coldwater coral forests. For example, measures were adopted to limit the impacts of bottom fishing in new fishing areas and provide for the protection of corals when encountered. New measures were also put in place to protect the Fogo Seamounts (undersea mountains located southwest of the Grand Banks). These efforts were strengthened by commitments to conduct new sea floor mapping and research.

"The decisions affecting cod bycatch are not consistent with NAFO's commitments to the precautionary and ecosystem management," said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Vice President Atlantic, WWF-Canada. "The only hope we can see for this situation is for NAFO and member countries to immediately implement more stringent measures to reduce cod bycatch in their fleets. Continuing with the status quo will surely wipe out the promising 2005 year class and the best opportunity for the recovery of this stock."

The recovery of the southern Grand Banks cod population will depend on the survival and reproduction of pulses of young cod in the population, such as occurred this year. Increases in bycatch in 2009 will jeopardize the survival of these young fish.

 Contacts: WWF-Canada Stacey McCarthy Communications Specialist, Atlantic Region (902) 482-1105 x 41 or Cell: (902) 209-6457 Email: [email protected]  WWF-Canada Robert Rangeley Vice President, Atlantic (902) 482-1105 x 23 or Cell: (902) 401-1569 Email: [email protected] Website: