Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

September 23, 2005 07:00 ET

DFO: Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Commits to Reform Agenda

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 23, 2005) - Members of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) have unanimously agreed to reform NAFO and improve management of the fisheries outside Canada's 200-mile limit. The decision was made at the NAFO annual meeting, which wrapped up today in Tallinn, Estonia.

"This is a move in the right direction," said Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. "There is a strong global consensus to modernize the organizations that manage the world's high seas fish stocks, as demonstrated in the Ministerial Declaration of the St. John's Conference. NAFO is the first regional fisheries management organization to commit to reform, and Canada will play a leadership role in this important work."

NAFO reform puts into action the Ministerial Declaration signed by 19 countries at the St. John's Conference on the Governance of High Seas Fisheries and the United Nations Fish Agreement, which was hosted by Canada in May 2005. Reform will improve the management of fisheries outside Canada's 200-mile limit by strengthening decision-making processes and ensuring that NAFO rules are clear, understandable, consistent with international agreements, and enforceable.

A working group within NAFO, led by Canada and the European Union (EU), will consider reform areas such as restructuring the organization, implementing an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management, changing how disputes between members are resolved, and ensuring that the use of the objection procedure does not negatively impact conservation.

Canada will host a meeting of the NAFO reform working group in April 2006. The group will make recommendations on changes to the NAFO Convention, its mandate, and operating rules at the 2006 annual meeting.

Of particular importance to Canada, and in keeping with the St. John's Ministerial Declaration, NAFO's committee on enforcement has also been instructed to dedicate its annual meeting to making recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of the existing NAFO enforcement regime. These recommendations will outline comprehensive ways to strengthen the enforcement regime including the establishment of guidelines for sanctions and improving the vessel monitoring system, at-sea and in-port inspections, and follow-up on infringements.

Another highlight of the Tallinn meeting is NAFO's renewed commitment to the Greenland Halibut rebuilding plan. Introduced in 2003, the plan is a comprehensive, long-term rebuilding strategy that includes quota reductions, vessel authorization and reporting requirements, and enhanced monitoring and control of the fishery.

Minister Regan welcomed the renewed commitment to the rebuilding plan and noted the EU has voluntarily closed their Greenland Halibut fishery early and committed to decrease their fleet size.

As an interim measure in the reform process and consistent with the principles of ecosystem-based fisheries management, NAFO has also taken first steps to protect fragile undersea mountains, known as seamounts. NAFO's Scientific Council will develop guidelines for gathering data on seamounts and will review existing research to provide NAFO with the information it needs to better manage these sensitive ecosystems.

At this year's meeting, NAFO substantially increased the 3L shrimp quotas from 13,000t to 22,000t. Canada receives 83 per cent of the overall quota, giving Canadian fishers access to a total of 18,300t shrimp. The increase in shrimp quota follows the advice of NAFO's Scientific Council.

Canada is one of 13 NAFO Contracting Parties. The annual meeting of the organization is a week-long session for officials to review scientific advice and determine the Total Allowable Catch of NAFO-regulated species. It is also an opportunity for Contracting Parties to present proposals for amendments to the way the organization manages fish stocks in the NAFO Regulatory Area.

The St. John's Conference Ministerial Declaration is located at

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Sophie Galarneau
    Media Relations
    (613) 990-7537
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Office of the Minister
    Sujata Raisinghani, Press Secretary
    (613) 992-3474