September 13, 2012 10:00 ET

NAFO to Decide Fate of the Grand Banks

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 13, 2012) - The North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) meets September 17-21 in St. Petersburg, Russia to make decisions on the long-term sustainability of Northwest Atlantic fish stocks and, consequently, on the future integrity and economic value of the Grand Banks. NAFO made meaningful progress in 2011 toward improving governance and transparency of fisheries management, however flawed data collection continues to jeopardize the recovery of the Grand Banks ecosystem and the lucrative fishing industry it once did - and once again could - support.

According to a UN report, US $50 billion a year is lost due to destructive and mismanaged fishing practices worldwide. Rising consumer and retailer demand for sustainably sourced fish is creating positive incentives for fisheries to transform practices. However effective governance and strong data are prerequisites for capitalizing on the opportunity of a sustainable seafood market.

NAFO took a major step in 2011 on the governance side, completing an independent performance review that resulted in 162 recommendations. This goes a long way towards modernizing NAFO and WWF looks to NAFO to adopt the Action Plan addressing those recommendations at the upcoming annual meeting.

However, urgent action is still needed to address data collection and reporting. Inaccurate catch data is a fundamental issue currently undermining NAFO's ability to make good fishery management decisions. Ultimately, that flawed data also undermines the potential of a profitable "blue economy" in the Grand Banks.


  • NAFO manages 19 stocks (comprised of 11 species). Eight of these stocks are currently under moratorium, including southern Grand Banks cod (cod is highlighted here as it is an indicator species for ecosystem rebuilding). Five stocks present low or uncertain biomass levels.
  • Although the current course for recovery of southern Grand Bank (NAFO division 3NO) cod is positive, it is still just 21 per cent of what is considered to be a sustainable level for the stock.
  • Bycatch is still a rampant problem slowing down rebuilding of depleted stocks. The bycatch of Grand Bank cod increased from 600 tonnes (t) in 2006 to 1100 t in 2009. It showed a decrease in 2011 to 826 t. WWF has highlighted the problem of bycatch in two influential reports tabled at NAFO's 2006 & 2007 annual meeting.(www.wwf.ca/newsroom/reports/oceans/).
  • Discrepancies in catch data from different sources remain a fundamental problem that must be urgently addressed by NAFO.
  • The impact of fisheries and current practices has been highlighted at the Prince of Wales' program on global sustainable fisheries; the Economist magazine's first World Ocean's Summit; the Rio+20 Summit.


"NAFO has taken great strides towards improved fisheries management decisions through to the independent performance review. But flawed data collection and reporting is undermining this good effort and is unacceptable. In 2012, NAFO must ensure timely, complete and accurate reporting of catch. By acting now, NAFO has an opportunity to help restore the ecological integrity of the Grand Banks for future generations and to become a global leader in developing a thriving sustainable seafood industry."
--Bettina Saier, Director, Oceans Program, WWF-Canada

To view WWF's Recommendations for the 2012 NAFO Annual Meeting: www.wwf.ca/conservation/oceans/approach

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