Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. fisheries minister calls for pause of south coast fishery decision as feds float idea of moratorium

Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Elvis Loveless is calling on federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to shut down any suggestion of mothballing the 3Ps cod fishery, citing concerns over modelling and the science used.

'What I do support is proper science,' says Elvis Loveless

Fisheries Minister Elvis Loveless says the decision process to possibly shut down cod fishery in zone 3Ps should be paused due to concerns over science and modelling. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Elvis Loveless is calling on federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to shut down any possibility of mothballing the cod fishery in the 3Ps region, citing concerns over modelling and the science used to recommend ending the fishery.

"We need to pause right now, and reflect on the issues with regards to the modelling around the science numbers," Loveless told reporters Monday.

"What I do support is proper science around the numbers in the 3Ps. I'm listening, and I hear concerns around the modelling 2018 model versus 2019 model. There is gaps in the information, and reading more it really leaves me concerned about the proper science around the numbers in the zone that we call 3Ps."

According to modelling from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 3Ps was placed in the critical zone in 2019. The 2018 model forecasted a slightly different picture, however, saying the stock was in better shape than previously thought.

The call comes one day after Fish Food & Allied Workers president Keith Sullivan called on Jordan to reject any closure of the south coast fishery after an assessment done by DFO indicated the cod stock in 3Ps could grow in 2021.

"There's a lot of groups concerned about this, and rightly so," Loveless said. "So right now I'm calling upon the federal minister to pause and get back to the table and discuss these concerns around these numbers. There seems to be some frustration and concerns over the modelling.

"In order to make good decisions, we need good, firm science. Facts so we can make those good decisions."

The 3PS fishing area covers much of the coastline of the southern coast of Newfoundland. (DFO)

While Jordan told CBC News a decision on a provincial 3Ps fishery has yet to be made, the federal government is set to begin negotiations with France regarding the fishing of 3Ps waters in St-Pierre-Miquelon.

While Loveless said talks are only in their infancy, there is reason for people in the province to be concerned.

"I don't want to be presumptuous about what will come out of these negotiations, but the fact that we're just discussing this today is very concerning. Concerning on many fronts," he said.

"We're talking about people that are directly involved in the fishery and indirectly involved. It is kind of premature, but it's certainly concerning that we're having this conversation today."

Talk of moratorium sitting sour with FFAW: Sullivan

Loveless said Monday a pause is just one option DFO has on the table. He fielded questions from reporters regarding the notion a moratorium could take place in the zone after the federal department brought the idea forward at an online forum.

It was an idea that took FFAW members completely by surprise, according to Keith Sullivan.

"We were shocked by that information, because most of the indicators looked at looked like it was at a general stability," Sullivan told CBC Radio's The Broadcast. "There were some positives that people had seen despite serious concern for the stock. So the expectation was going to be that this was going to be a stable year for management. Then boom."

A moratorium wouldn't be new in 3Ps, which saw a limit on the total allowable catch of 10,000 metric tonnes from 1993 to 1997. The total allowable catch in 2020 was just 2,691 tonnes.

FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan said the idea of a moratorium brought forward by DFO caught him and other members off-guard. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"It's a low amount, so I really believe there are other ways to address this," he said.

"It's boggling to say that we're going to take everything out on harvesters who are having no impact. It's irresponsible, confusing and the members I've talked to are just not accepting of it."

Loveless said his concerns have been brought forward, and he spoke with Jordan on Monday afternoon. While he said the conversation was productive, there was nothing that dictated the Minister had changed her mind at all.

"The concerns that I have are what harvesters have in this province, plant workers have in this province, communities have in this province. I very clearly communicated to her that it is of grave concern where this is going."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Todd O'Brien

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