Oceana Canada calls on the government to rebuild potentially lucrative redfish fishery: Maintain current fishing quotas for Gulf of St. Lawrence redfish - Oceana Canada

Oceana Canada calls on the government to rebuild potentially lucrative redfish fishery: Maintain current fishing quotas for Gulf of St. Lawrence redfish

Press Release Date: May 30, 2018

In the wake of a failed 18-month management process for redfish, Oceana Canada is calling on the government to maintain current fishing quotas for Gulf of St. Lawrence redfish and to keep its commitment to deliver a rebuilding plan.

“We are disappointed the process to develop harvest rules and a rebuilding plan has not been achieved. Now, a decision on this year’s quota must be made before the season opens June 15 amid strong calls to increase the total allowable catch,” said Robert Rangeley, Director of Science at Oceana Canada. “In April 2017, the government committed to delivering a rebuilding plan for redfish by the end of June 2018. They have not delivered on this commitment.”

During the redfish management process committee members from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), indigenous groups, and industry, developed five long-term management options, each of which included a science-based harvest control rule to ensure catch levels resulted in a healthy, rebuilt stock. The process collapsed when new untested harvest advice was tabled by industry and DFO announced it would not be pursuing a rebuilding plan.

Redfish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have recently shown strong signs of recovery, but the stock, made up of two separate species, is complicated to manage and its recovery remains uncertain.

“There is a real opportunity to plan for a large, sustainable fishery that will have strong social and economic benefits to the region,” said Rangeley. “The fishery has potential to produce large, high-value fillets for seafood markets over the next five years, but if the catch is increased too soon, especially of young fish, without a good management plan, it could be reduced to a small, low-value bait fishery.”

He explains redfish species are long-lived and slow growing, and the production of the large number of young fish that occurred from 2011-2013 is a rare event. Increasing fishing before these juveniles reach sexual maturity threatens the future growth of the population.

“We are also uncertain about the impact increasing fishing will have on the habitat and bycatch of other species, including commercially important fish and depleted species,” said Rangeley. “The type of plan the government committed to, and failed to develop, would address these issues.”

Once among Atlantic Canada’s largest groundfish fisheries, the redfish fishery collapsed in the 1990s due to overfishing, delivering another devastating economic and social blow to the Canadian fishing industry already impacted by the collapse of Northern cod.

In the fall of 2017, Oceana Canada released the most comprehensive review of the state of Canada’s fisheries and the first annual assessment of how the government is managing them. The results from the 2017 Fisheries Audit revealed that Canadian fisheries are in trouble: only one third of stocks are considered healthy and 13 per cent are in critical condition. One of the conclusions is that successful rebuilding occurs in jurisdictions where rebuilding plans are mandatory for overfished stocks. In the United States, for example, rebuilding became mandatory 20 years ago. Since then, 43 stocks have been rebuilt, generating on average 50 per cent more revenue than when they were overfished. Oceana Canada’s 2018 Fisheries Audit will be released this fall.

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For more information, please contact: Kara-Ann Miel, Communications Director, Oceana Canada, 647-535-6326, kmiel@oceana.ca

About Oceana Canada

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation.

Canada has the longest coastline in the world, with an ocean surface area of 7.1 million square kilometres, or 70 per cent of its landmass. Oceana Canada believes that Canada has a national and global obligation to manage our natural resources responsibly and help ensure a sustainable source of protein for the world’s growing population. Oceana Canada works 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. oceana.ca.