Newfoundland and Labrador's leading expert on cod said Tuesday that while there are strong signs northern cod is starting to make a comeback, fishermen should still leave it alone.

Inshore fishermen have noticed an increase in the number of cod, and say there should be an increase in the amount they're allowed catch.

George Rose, a former federal fisheries scientist and the research chair in fisheries science at Memorial University, said there has been a big turnaround recently in the fish's population — a big change from even three or four years ago.

"Nowhere near back to what they were historically, but they're starting to look better and better each year. So there's been some amazing changes in the last couple of years," he said.

Rose linked some of the change to the recent reappearance of caplin, the main food for cod at this time of the year.

However when it comes to increased catch allowances, Rose argued that if ever there was a time for caution, it's now.

"We are at a critical time, and we're not at all certain that with an increase [in] the fishery that's substantial, we couldn't knock this  back down," he said.

Federal fisheries officials are also being cautious. Northern cod licence holders are allowed to catch 3,750 pounds this year — only 500 pounds more than last year.

Northern cod stocks off of Newfoundland and Labrador suffered a major collapse in the early 1990s, and the federal government imposed a moratorium in 1992. Since then, the federal government has allowed commercial fishing on a limited basis, as well as a food fishery.