Nfld. & Labrador

Cod not in danger, researcher George Rose says

A longtime fisheries researcher does not agree with the latest move to declare Atlantic cod an endangered species.

Skeptical of COSEWIC application for endangered status

Fisheries scientist George Rose, seen during a 2010 news conference, does not support a move to have cod declared an endangered species. (CBC )

A longtime fisheries researcher does not agree with the latest move to declare Atlantic cod an endangered species. 

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC, is recommending that distinction for cod, as well as redfish.

COSEWIC started a similar process a decade ago, but it was not successful. 

George Rose, a former federal fisheries scientist who has studied cod for decades, said while stocks are not as plentiful as they once were, they are not nearing extinction. 

"I don't really believe that there is any danger for any of these species — cod, redfish or plaice — going biologically extinct," Rose told CBC News in a telephone interview. 

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has already looked at the science as well as the economic and sociological aspects of the renewed request.

Public consultations started last week, and will continue until the end of January. DFO will then make a recommendation that will ultimately be dealt with by the federal cabinet.

Endangered status would oblige Ottawa to implement a recovery plan for cod. 

Rose said even that is much easier said than done. 

"Trying to predict what happened in our ecosystems over the last few decades would try the patience of saints," he said. 

Canada introduced a moratorium on northern cod, the largest single cod stock, in 1992, with other commercial cod fisheries shut down afterward. 

Commercial cod fishing remains limited, and cod fishing itself is best known now as a recreational activity through the annual recreational food fishery.

Rose, who also opposed the last COSEWIC application a decade ago, said there is nothing new in the latest application. 

He said what's required is a move by DFO toward what he calls adaptive management, with more research on ocean ecosystems and then action on managing troubled cod stocks. 

"That's what I'd like DFO to do, and they have been a bit slow off the mark in that," Rose said. 

Keith Hutchings, Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries minister, issued a statement that stressed the need to protect commercial and cultural interests, while ensuring the well-being of stocks. 

It also suggested some of COSEWIC's information may be outdated. 


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