N.L. inshore cod fishery to reopen for a year
A small, one-year commercial cod fishery will open in Newfoundland bays this summer, for the first time in years in some locations, federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn announced Thursday.
Hearn also said in Petty Harbour, a fishing village just outside St. John's, that the popular recreational cod fishery — which had been closed in most coastal communities around the island —will be reinstated.
Although many scientists have warned that the health of cod stocks remains precariously low, fishermen have often reported seeing abundant cod in inshore areas.
"A small-scale fishery will allow fishers the opportunity to test their beliefs about the health of the stocks," Hearn said in a statement. "The information gained will contribute to decisions around the future management of these stocks."
Boosting industry income
Tom Best, a veteran inshore fisherman in Petty Harbour, said the decision will help supplement the incomes of many households this summer.
"It's a start," Best said.
"You're not going to be able to maintain your home, and your vehicle and your overhead. But every few dollars in a deteriorated situation like we have in the fishing industry here in this province today is a godsend."
The federal government has tried similar projects, including a "sentinel" fishery that launched in the 1990s and aimed to marry the interests of research and commercial fishermen.
Cod has also been legally caught when landed in the course of taking other species.
The community of Petty Harbour, whose economy has depended for centuries on an inshore fishery, is one of dozens decimated by the closure of most commercial cod fisheries around Newfoundland and Labrador when Ottawa imposed a moratorium on harvesting the species off the northeast coast in 1992.
The closure, which put about 20,000 fishermen and plant workers out of work overnight, has been called the largest layoff in Canadian history.
Well over a decade later, scientists warn that stocks remain critically low.
Last fall, the former Liberal government rejected an expert panel's recommendations to declare northern cod as an endangered species. That decision was ratified this winter by the current Conservative government.
The new, one-year pilot project, dubbed the Fisheries Stewardship Initiative, will involve as many as 2,300 fishermen.
The overall quota is 2,300 tonnes — a small percentage of the historic catches in the years leading up to the 1992 moratorium.
Ottawa closed all cod fisheries on the Newfoundland coast— except for a limited fishery along the south coast— in April 2003.
Fish stock in peril: scientist
Ransom Myers, a Dalhousie University scientist who has studied the decline of cod stocks for years, said Thursday's announcement is discouraging. He said the evidence on the poor state of the resource is already overwhelming.
"[This] is not based on science. If you're going to operate a test fishery, you're not going to find anything new in terms of the status of the stock. That's well understood," said Myers, who worked for years as a federal fisheries scientist in Newfoundland. </P>
Myers said anecdotal reports from fishermen "should not be discounted," but the stock as a whole is still in peril.
Meanwhile, Myers is critical of the federal government's decision to not use tags for this year's recreational fishery, which will run across the Atlantic provinces.
"It's hard to detect poaching," he said.
Best said he is also concerned about the potential for abuse