Our current approach to fishery management results in some crucial and recurring problems that are currently highlighted by three particular issues.
One is the controversy over the latest 3PS cod stock assessment and the new computer model being used there. Despite the continuing discussion and whatever the pros and cons of the two approaches, no change in the assessment method can change the amount of fish in the ocean.
Moreover, there appears to be no clear idea of how the results will be translated into a harvesting plan and what the effects will be on the stock and on the economies of South Coast communities that depend on it.
Secondly, 2J3KL cod biomass seems to be stuck around 400,000 tonnes. At other times or in other fishing countries like Iceland and Norway, this would be the basis for a 25 per cent harvest — approximately 100,000 tonnes. Yet here, the plan for 2020 is to harvest a mere three per cent, hoping that will help the stock regrow.
That’s what we’ve been doing for the past several years, but we’re still stuck. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Third, the prospect of an exciting new redfish harvest in the Gulf raises some thought-provoking questions.
Redfish live to be 75 years of age, which means this is more than a short-term matter. It has been reported that in 2018-19 the stock grew by 20 per cent, from 2.5-million tonnes to three-million tonnes. If the figures are correct, that represents an enormous amount of growth.
If it were to continue at the same rate, we could easily harvest 10 per cent of the biomass each year for many years without putting the stock at risk. Even a modest annual harvest of 300,000 tonnes would require 30 fish plants the size of Arnold’s Cove to process it.
Of course, there are many unknowns. For example, at what point would the redfish outgrow its food supply or succumb to other unpredictable factors? Yet there seems to be little planning for something potentially so massive.
Perhaps our present system is simply not capable of dealing with such situations sustainably and for maximum economic benefit.
Might not these dilemmas be further signs calling for a new approach — a real change in how we actively plan and manage our harvesting?
St. John’s, NL