September 28, 2007 17:54 ET

Cod and Corals Off Newfoundland to be Protected

Conservation measures taken by NAFO praised: WWF-Canada

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 28, 2007) - WWF-Canada today praised decisions made to recover cod off Newfoundland and Labrador and begin to protect vulnerable habitats such as coldwater coral at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Annual Meeting this week in Lisbon, Portugal.

"For some time NAFO has been talking about protecting habitats and recovering depleted stocks," said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Vice President, Atlantic, WWF-Canada. "Today NAFO has begun to move from words to action by committing to conservation measures that, when implemented, will make a real difference on the water."

These measures represent a commitment to a modernized fisheries management regime that includes protecting marine ecosystems and adopting precautionary approaches. This commitment was accepted by a consensus of contracting parties of NAFO in their newly revised Convention.

This year, NAFO countries committed to a southern Grand Banks cod recovery strategy, which includes an immediate bycatch reduction target of 40%. Bycatch, the unintended harvesting of non-targeted species, is the single most important factor in the continued decline of cod stocks. Current cod stocks are roughly 6% of their historical abundance.

In addition, NAFO has committed to immediately "freeze the footprint" on the southwest slope of the Grand Banks (in an area known as NAFO Division 3O) by banning all bottom fishing activities in depths between 800m and 2000m. This closure captures part of a coral hotspot identified in WWF-Canada's coral bycatch report, authored by scientists at Memorial University of Newfoundland, which was released earlier this month. This is an initial step in a process that will see NAFO identify vulnerable habitats such as those containing corals over the next year and develop measures for their protection. It is anticipated that additional measures will be implemented at next years annual meeting, held next September in Spain.

"We are very encouraged with the measures undertaken this week as they have met most of our pre-meeting conservation expectations," continued Rangeley. "Canada in particular should be noted for its leadership in proposing measures to protect both cod and coral and working to see them adopted. These are critically important steps that will take hard work and goodwill in order to succeed. We look forward to working with NAFO and all its contracting countries in the future to continue to restore the Grand Banks ecosystem, so that those nations and individuals that have relied on its resources can continue to do so in the future."

Note to editors:

Coldwater Corals off Newfoundland and Labrador: Distribution and Fisheries Impacts

Evan Edinger, Krista Baker, Rodolphe Devilliers, Vonda Wareham - can be found at: http://wwf.ca/coral

This news release and associated material can be found on wwf.ca.

Contact Information