Fisheries Minister's Decision Threatens Northern Cod Recovery: Ignoring Science Could Undermine Decades of Conservation Efforts - Oceana Canada

Fisheries Minister’s Decision Threatens Northern Cod Recovery: Ignoring Science Could Undermine Decades of Conservation Efforts

Rebuilding — Instead of Repeating Devastating Mistakes — Could Restore Northern Cod within 11 years, provide 16 times more jobs and support activities worth $233 million

Press Release Date: June 26, 2024

Media contacts: Vaishali Dassani, Oceana Canada,, 647-294-3335;  Angela Pinzon, Pilot PMR,, 647-295-0517

Halifax, NS, Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People:  Today, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced the reopening of the commercial northern cod fishery after a 32-year moratorium, along with increasing the Canadian fishing quota by 38.5% to 18,000 tonnes. The decision, made as the stock barely moved out of the critical zone, poses significant risks to the future recovery of this iconic fish population and a centuries-old fishery that is vital for Newfoundland and Labrador ocean ecosystems and coastal communities. It ignores scientific advice and the urgent need to address the impacts of decades of overfishing and short-sighted fisheries management.  

According to Oceana Canada’s research, a rebuilt northern cod fishery could provide 16 times more jobs and have a net present value worth up to five times more than today. With low fishing pressure and favorable environmental conditions, the fishery could recover to healthy levels in as few as 11 years, supporting economic activities worth $233 million in today’s dollars. 

Below is the response from Rebecca Schijns, Fishery Scientist, Oceana Canada: 

We are deeply concerned and disappointed with Canada’s short-sighted decision to reopen and increase fishing pressure on the 2J3KL northern cod stock, despite clear science and policy guidance to maintain fishing at levels that support growth, not stagnation or decline. Prematurely celebrating the recovery of northern cod and opening the commercial fishery puts the stock at significant risk and undermines efforts to rebuild healthy oceans and coastal communities. 

Continuing high fishing pressure also contradicts the mandate of the Fisheries Act, which requires measures to maintain major fish stocks at sustainable levels. DFO’s own science shows that this plan will not result in stock growth, with cod projected to return to the critical zone in the next few years.  

We urge Canada’s Fisheries Minister, Diane Lebouthillier, to ensure northern cod has a robust management plan, in line with scientific advice and best practices. As a listed stock under the Fisheries Act, the Minister is legally required to do everything necessary to bring it back to a sustainable level. 

This decision is especially concerning given the recent roll-over of the capelin fishery quota, removing almost 15,000 tonnes of northern cod’s primary food source. The availability of capelin was identified as the single biggest factor impeding the recovery of northern cod, so these combined decisions put the future of both essential stocks in jeopardy, with massive costs to coastal communities dependent on healthy oceans. 

The future of northern cod and the resilience of marine ecosystems depend on immediate and decisive action to manage fisheries to healthy levels. We remain committed to working with the Canadian government, Indigenous Peoples, and Canadians to achieve sustainable fisheries management and the long-term health of northern cod.” 

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to ban single-use plastics, end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future. Find out more at