The Atlantic Groundfish Council (AGC), the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) and the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) have all announced they will withdraw from bilateral meetings to determine quotas to protest the Canada’s intention to impose a moratorium. on cod in Area 3Ps.
Normally, representatives of the fishing industry attend the Canada-France meetings as advisers.
The decision to step down comes after the industry learned Friday night at a meeting with Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) that the Canadian government would declare a moratorium on cod fishing in 3Ps this year, ending the any commercial fishing activity.
“Given that the mandate of the Canadian delegation is something that we cannot support, we feel that we have no choice but to step down as adviser for this week’s bilateral meetings with the France, ”Chairman Bruce Chapman said in the press release. “We are not taking this decision lightly. In my more than 40 years advising DFO in numerous bilateral and multilateral fisheries negotiations, there have been time and time again divergent views. But never did anything so serious that required this action.
NL members of the groundfish council – Icewater Seafoods, Ocean Choice International and Harbor Grace Shrimp Company – also stepped down as advisers at the meeting where the 3Ps Cod Total Allowable Catch (TAC) will be negotiated for the 2021-2022 season. It is understood that other players in the industry have decided to do the same.
In an interview with SaltWire, Albert Wareham, president of Icewater Seafoods, said the industry was “blinded” when he spoke of a moratorium on Friday.
He said in several meetings with DFO since the release of the 3Ps stock assessment in November, there had been no talk of a moratorium.
According to Wareham, even at the most recent meeting with DFO officials in early March there was no mention of the closure of the cod fishery in 3Ps.
“We first heard about it on Friday, and it was a shock and a disbelief,” he said of the industry reaction.
Blaine Sullivan, President of Ocean Choice International, said in the AGC press release: “Meaningful consultation with those affected is important in any decision making about fish stocks. For a position of this magnitude to be taken without meaningful consultation or reasonable discussion is difficult to understand, ”he said.
“We know the 3Ps cod is in the critical zone. We also know that we prioritize the long term health of this stock in our recommendations year after year. This is a principle we will never give up, ”explained Dr Kris Vascotto, CEO of the Atlantic Groundfish Council. “But science does not support the need to close the fishery. Knowing this and knowing how many people and families depend on it for their livelihoods, we simply have not been able to participate in bilateral discussions with France, aimed at reaching a closure agreement for the fishery, based on the evidence. scientists presented and without in-depth discussion. with those most affected by a decision. ”
Even after the reduction in catches, the remaining small 3Ps cod fishery continues to be critical to the region and the province.
At Icewater Seafoods’ high-tech processing plant in Arnold’s Cove, 3Ps cod makes up 40 to 50 percent of its raw material in a typical year. The fact that these landings take place from early summer to February, which plays a key role in the company’s ability to keep people working and to sell cod from all fishing areas in Newfoundland -and Labrador to quality markets, adds to the importance of the stock. These markets in the UK and France demand product year round.
Seafood Producers Association (ASP) CEO Derek Butler has also resigned as an advisor to the Canada-France Advisory Committee.
In a press release, Butler said at the 3Ps groundfish briefing between DFO and industry in January, science showed that high natural mortality and a changing ecosystem are factors. important in the current state of the stock, not the commercial fishery. Butler says science shows that the estimated fishing mortality rate has been relatively low since 2010 and has been declining since 2015.
“DFO science says there’s a good chance if we continue with a status quo, which the industry argued in January. . the probability of growth (of the stock) was greater than 50%. ”
Closing the 3Ps cod fishery would have significant repercussions on the industry, especially for plants like Icewater Seafoods Ltd, Arnold’s Cove’s largest employer and the largest cod producer in North America.
A shutdown would have a serious impact on that business as well as other ASP members that produce cod, Butler said.
Butler said, “The industry has responded to the science by following the path of biomass and reducing quotas, and we are committed to sustainability. But that does not mean that there is no fishing given the indications of growth. ”
In its press release, the FFAW said this year’s proposed recommendation for 3Ps cod is unacceptable and needs to be reconsidered.
FFAW President Keith Sullivan said the union was adamant that there are solutions based on the best available science that would allow this fishery to continue.
SaltWire has requested an interview with Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan.
We will have more coverage on this story as it develops.