Newfoundland and Labrador Cod Fishery Enters Harvester-driven Fisheries Improvement Project

A new Fisheries Improvement Project led by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) and WWF-Canada is aiming to bring a renowned Newfoundland and Labrador cod fishery that’s been under a fishing moratorium since 1992 back to a healthy level – and eventual commercial viability.

The northern cod stock in NAFO area 2J3KL has shown clear signs of growth in some areas since 2006, with current trends pointing to even larger increases if current and future fisheries are well managed.

“The goal of this Fisheries Improvement Project is to enable the historic and now recovering northern cod stock to rebuild to the levels necessary for the fisheries, coastal communities and associated industries to thrive,” said David Miller, President and CEO of WWF-Canada. “We are especially proud this is moving forward with the support of FFAW-Unifor and the many inshore fish harvesters whose livelihoods and communities depend on fishing.”

The Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPONL) and the Fogo Island Co-Op are also backing the project, which is of considerable interest to buyers and retailers in Canada and abroad.

The FIP is a multi-step, multi-stakeholder initiative aiming to improve fishing practices and management to help the northern cod fishery rebuild and meet or exceed the Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainable fisheries.

“Harvesters and their communities will be those most affected by the management practices of the cod fisheries”, said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.

“We are pleased to work with WWF-Canada and other partners who recognize harvesters’ commitment to ensure we build a sustainable northern cod fishery that benefits our coastal communities and the economy of our province.”

One of the biggest threats to healthy ocean ecosystems is the demand for and procurement of unsustainable seafood.

“The northern cod fishery shaped Canada’s history for hundreds of years, and with the right kind of management and partnerships in place, this incredible part of our ecological and cultural history can continue to shape our future,” Miller added. “People everywhere are asking that their fish come from sustainable sources, and this gives fisheries more incentive than ever to enter into community-focused recovery programs.”

In January 2011, WWF-Canada and Icewater Seafoods started Canada’s first FIP in the 3Ps cod fishery off southern Newfoundland. With most cod stocks in the region still recovering from collapse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the project set out a 3-year action plan – and succeeded. The fishery is now in the final stages of assessment for certification by MSC.

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