tp-cod-fish-cp-1322394

A moratorium on cod fishing was imposed in the Grand Banks in 1994. ((Stephan Savoia/Associated Press))

Atlantic cod stocks are recovering in the Grand Banks, new fisheries figures show.

The cod population at the underwater plateau southeast of Newfoundland has grown 69 per cent since 2007. However, that still only brings it to 10 per cent of what the stocks were in the 1960s, the World Wildlife Fund Canada said Thursday.

"While this cod stock is still near historic lows, a significant increase in the number of spawning fish is good news for the future of this once major fishery,"  the conservation group said in a statement accompanying its preview of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization's Scientific Council Report.

However, WWF-Canada warned that for the recovery to continue, the fisheries organization, also known as NAFO, needs to make a commitment at its annual meeting this month to a strategy for rebuilding cod stocks. The intergovernmental organization meets in Halifax from Sept. 20 to 24.

"What they need to have is a plan for cod recovery," said Robert Rangeley, WWF-Canada's vice-president for the Atlantic Region "That's the bottom line."

A moratorium on cod fishing in the Grand Banks was imposed in 1994, two years after the moratorium on northern cod, a population of the species a little further north.

The World Wildlife Fund noted that Canada has done a good job of not exceeding voluntary limits for the number of cod caught accidentally as "by-catch" while fishing for other species.

It said European Union fleets continue to exceed the limits, however, and this "accidentally-on-purpose" approach continues to threaten the cod recovery.

The conservation group wants by-catch limits decreased and enforced. Rangely advocates setting rules that would require fishing fleets to take specific actions when they approach the limits, such as avoiding a certain area for the rest of the season.