September 25, 2009 12:33 ET

NAFO Fails to Address Excessive Bycatch of Endangered Grand Banks Cod

BERGEN, NORWAY--(Marketwire - Sept. 25, 2009) - The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) has failed to implement concrete measures to control excessive bycatch of cod on the southern Grand Banks at their annual meeting this week in Bergen, Norway.

NAFO exceeded their 2008 voluntary bycatch reduction target for Grand Banks cod by 119 per cent. In 2007, NAFO had committed to consider additional measures to control bycatch if voluntary measures failed. Despite the failure, and despite calls for action by Canada, supported by the European Union (EU), no new measures were implemented by NAFO. The EU is the Contracting Party responsible for the excessive bycatch.

"NAFO did not bring in measures to reduce bycatch of Grand Banks cod, which will further prevent recovery", said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Vice-President, WWF-Canada, Atlantic Region. "However, there is a glimmer of hope. Canada has clearly demonstrated the ability to bring bycatch of cod under control and NAFO's Scientific Council has been directed to recommend measures to reduce bycatch next year."

In another decision, NAFO re-opened the Flemish Cap cod fishery (3M) after a 10 year moratorium. The fishery reached the NAFO rebuilding target, which demonstrates that cod can recovery when fishing and bycatch pressures are removed. There is cause for concern, however, as the EU supported a level above that recommended as precautionary by Scientific Council, Norway, USA and WWF. The fishery will be reopened with a total allowable catch (TAC) of 5500 tonnes, 33 per cent higher than the 4126 tonne precautionary level that scientists advised.

Progress was made on the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) from the impacts of bottom fishing in a number of identified areas. NAFO agreed to close 2500 nautical square miles of the proposed areas identified in locations where bottom fishing is likely to result in the prevention of significant adverse impacts on coldwater coral forests and sponge reefs. There is still work to do on addressing the fishing impacts to vulnerable areas where fishing is currently being conducted. These impacts would have been better assessed had NAFO adopted the proposal by the US to follow the guidelines for impact assessment, as outlined in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as specified in the 2006 UNGA Resolution. NAFO had a commitment to implement these measures by January 1, 2010, yet impact assessments will not be conducted until 2011 at the earliest.

About WWF-Canada

WWF-Canada is part of WWF, the world's largest conservation organization. At WWF we advocate and promote lasting solutions to the challenge of balancing growing human need and environmental sustainability. In collaboration with business, government, communities and individuals we take a science-based approach to the protection, management and restoration of environmentally sensitive parts of our planet. Our work includes visionary projects focused on climate change, freshwater and the health of habitat and species across Canada and around the world. For more information about WWF-Canada visit wwf.ca.

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Contact Information

  • WWF-Canada
    Stacey McCarthy
    Communications Specialist
    902.482.1105 x 41, Cell: 902.449.6415
    Robert Rangeley
    Vice President, Atlantic Region
    902.482.1105 x 23, Cell: 902.401.1569