September 23, 2011 16:06 ET

Strong Interim Plan For Rebuilding Cod Adopted at NAFO AM

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 23, 2011) - This week's annual meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada saw the adoption of an interim plan tabled by Canada for cod recovery on the Grand Banks. This plan, promoted by WWF, is an important step towards recovery of this depleted fishery.

While the interim plan is a positive step, a future cod fishery on the Grand Banks may still be at risk given the amount of cod bycatch in other fisheries. NAFO has not yet set a science-based bycatch target and this year it compromised on the recommended allowable amount.

NAFO also made some progress on protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs), including an agreement to reassess the impacts of bottom fishing on VMEs. This was largely due to strong science-based conservation proposals tabled by the Unites States.

The week began with a focus on the management organization's performance to find solutions for addressing the 129 performance review recommendations that came as a result of an independent evaluation conducted earlier this year. In the end NAFO established a working group to develop an action plan within a year, providing a strong foundation for the "long-term conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources in the Northwest Atlantic."

Overall, efforts to implement a precautionary and ecosystem approach to fisheries management more widely will be required.

Seafood market demand for well-managed ecosystems should continue to provide incentives for science- based and precautionary approaches to NAFO decision making.

"WWF has been working for the past decade on the recovery of the Grand Banks and we have continually outlined the steps that must be undertaken by NAFO in our annually published recommendations.

This year NAFO made major advancements towards the recovery of a moratoria cod stock. Overall NAFO strengthened fisheries management."

Dr. Bettina Saier, Director, Oceans Program



  • NAFO adopted the interim Conservation Plans and Rebuilding Strategies for southern Grand Banks cod and American plaice.

  • NAFO reduced the bycatch limit of Grand Banks cod retained on board from five percent to four percent or from 1250 kg to 1000 kg.

  • VME encounter thresholds for sponges were reduced from 800 kgs to 600 kgs within the fishing footprint and 400 kgs outside the fishing footprint. The new thresholds were set on a provisional basis and may be adjusted as experience is gained in the application of this measure.

  • The coral and sponge protection zones closures (comprised of 11 areas) were extended until 31 December 2014 and the lower boundary of the Flemish Cap Northeast Prong was expanded to the deeper boundary to the 2500 m contour.

  • NAFO reduced the total allowable catch for thorny skate from 12,000 tonnes (t) to 8500t (3500t higher than the scientific advice).

To download reports visit http://wwf.ca/newsroom/reports/atlantic/.

To view WWF's Recommendations for NAFO's Annual Meeting visit: http://assets.wwf.ca/downloads/wwf_recommendations_nafo_2011.pdf.

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