Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

September 25, 2009 16:49 ET

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Takes Strong New Action to Protect Fish Stocks and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems

BERGEN, NORWAY--(Marketwire - Sept. 25, 2009) - The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) announced today the closures of 11 sponge and coral areas to bottom fishing, as well as the re-opening of a directed fishery for 3M cod (the Flemish Cap) in the NAFO Regulatory Area, outside Canada's 200-mile limit, and red fish in Divisions 3LN.

"I'm proud of the work accomplished by our Canadian delegation at NAFO," said the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. "The progress made in Norway is a testament to Canada's ongoing efforts on the world stage to adopt an ecosystem-based approach and to improve the conservation and long-term sustainability of international fisheries."

NAFO has undertaken extensive analysis and research in recent years to identify and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems in its Regulatory Area, working to define its footprint (existing bottom fishing areas) and developing an exploratory protocol to prevent damage to as yet untouched sensitive habitats. The closures announced today aim to protect 11 concentrations of coral and sponges and build on this extensive work to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts from bottom fishing.

The closures for sponge and coral concentrations adopted by NAFO are the first of their kind in the North Atlantic. They cover approximately 2,500 square nautical miles, roughly one and a half times the size of Prince Edward Island.

The re-opening of the 3M cod (Flemish Cap) and 3LN red fish fisheries in the NAFO Regulatory Area, outside Canada's 200-mile limit, follows years of strict measures to rebuild these stocks and comes ten years after they were placed under NAFO moratorium. To ensure that the re-opening is carried out responsibly and with a view to the long-term sustainability of the stock, Canada was instrumental in setting important additional measures for the fishery, including: total quota management, and a 5% by-catch limit for members without a 3M cod or a 3LN red fish quota allocation.

In addition, several other stocks currently under NAFO moratorium, such as American Plaice, are showing signs of recovery that are encouraging to fishery managers and the industry. Re-opening these fisheries is a signal to NAFO Contracting Parties that their efforts must continue and that, with sufficient time and precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches, we can effectively ensure the long-term sustainability of all fish stocks and preserve the economic opportunities on which our coastal communities depend.

"NAFO Contracting Parties have agreed to redouble their efforts to further reduce cod by-catch in Divisions 3NO," said David Balfour, Head of the Canadian delegation. "We are encouraged by the level of commitment of NAFO Members to ensure the recovery of stocks important to Canada."

Due to ongoing uncertainty over the status of the Greenland halibut stock, the total allowable catch was maintained at 16,000 tonnes for one year, with an agreement to establish a working group of fisheries managers and scientists to address some of this uncertainty and develop a risk management framework to help inform future management decisions for Greenland halibut. Contracting Parties have also agreed to additional investments in research to close the knowledge gap, and have reaffirmed their commitment to working together to ensure accurate catch reporting going forward.

For more information about these and other measures, consult the attached backgrounder. More information will also be communicated as it becomes available in the coming days and weeks. Visit and often to find out more.



The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) agreed to a number of management measures at its 2009 annual general meeting in Bergen, Norway, September 21-25. Below is a summary of some of these measures.

Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs)

- The closures of several areas to bottom fishing are in step with ongoing efforts under way globally. They are aligned with the UN General Assembly Resolution 61/105, where Canada and other States agreed in 2006 that they and regional fisheries management organizations would take measures to manage impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems arising from bottom fishing.

- The closures become effective 60 days from the date when NAFO transmits the decision to Contracting Parties. It is expected that the closures will take effect in late November or early December 2009.

- The closures are around concentrations of sponges and corals, and range from the Eastern edge of the Flemish Cap to the Northern edge of the Orphan Knoll.

- The total area of the closures is approximately 2,500 square nautical miles, ranging from the Eastern edge of the Flemish Cap to the Sackville Spur, and from the southern portion of the Flemish Pass, through Eastern Canyons, and down to the Northern edge of the tail of the Grand Banks.

- Guidelines for the methodology to assess fishing impacts on VMEs in the NAFO Regulatory Area have been referred to a working group which will report back to NAFO at its 2010 annual meeting.

3M cod and 3LN red fish fishery

- A directed fishery has been re-opened for 3M cod and 3LN red fish in the NAFO Regulatory Area outside of Canada's 200-mile limit.

- The total allowable catch (TAC) for the 3M cod and 3LN red fish fisheries this year are 5,500 tonnes and 3,500 tonnes, respectively.

- Important additional management measures have been put in place for the re-opening of the 3M cod and 3LN red fish fisheries, including:

- Total Quota Management: By-catch by Contracting Parties with a quota
allocation are to be included towards the calculation of their
respective catch totals; and

- Reduced by-catch levels for Contracting Parties without a quota
allocation: Respecting the principles of the precautionary approach,
Contracting Parties without a 3M cod quota allocation will be limited
to a 5% by-catch level, half of the usual limit for a directed fishery
in the NAFO Regulatory Area.

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS)

- A provision was adopted by NAFO to permit the use of VMS data for search and rescue (SAR), as well as for maritime safety purposes. This policy enshrines in NAFO regulations what was generally a common domestic practice among member States.

- NAFO Contracting Parties have agreed to increase the frequency at which vessels must report VMS data to NAFO from two hours to one. Furthermore, a requirement to report on new data elements (speed and course) has been added to enhance the information available to NAFO inspectors. These amendments will provide NAFO enforcement officials with more accurate and timely information to better monitor fishing vessel movement in the NAFO Regulatory Area and protect closed areas, such as protected vulnerable marine ecosystems.

- NAFO has also adopted new reporting requirements that simplify and enhance reporting provisions. These changes should lighten the administrative burden, reduce chances of confusion, and foster greater compliance. As this simply standardizes practices already in place domestically in Canada, Canadian fishing industry will not be impacted.

NAFO Performance Review

- NAFO Contracting Parties have agreed to hold a working group meeting to develop terms of reference for undertaking a performance review of the organization over the next year. This working group will report its recommendations to the NAFO General Council at the next annual general meeting.

- Canada supports regular performance reviews as a mechanism to improve the function of regional fisheries management organizations, including NAFO.

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    Media Relations
    Scott Cantin
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    Ottawa, ON
    Minister's Office
    John W. Morris
    Director of Communications