Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why DFO won't implement Atlantic wide opening/closing dates for rec cod fishery

I posed a series of questions today (Feb. 24) at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which is studying recreational fisheries across Canada. The witness responding to my question (I had 3 minutes for questions and answers) is Kevin Stringer, assistant deputy minister. Newfoundland and Labrador's recreational cod fishery is opened for 32 days, much less than the Maritimes. Mr. Ryan Cleary: Thanks, Robert. Thank you, Mr. Chair and thank you to the witnesses for appearing before the committee. I remember back in the early 1990's when John Crosbie shut down the Northern Cod Fishery. He was asked a question at the time whether or not there would be any restriction of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians being able to fish for their table. His answer was if the stocks ever got that low that you couldn't fish for your supper, she'd be gone. We're at the point now where there have been restrictions on recreational fisheries for a number of years and as you point out, Mr. Stringer, in your opening, in Newfoundland and Labrador the fishery is restricted to two specific fishing seasons which allow for a total of 32 days of fishing. Now the minister was good enough last fall to extend the fishery because of inclement weather and that was good because in certain cases, lives have been endangered where people go out and fish when the weather is not fit. I've got a question for you, right off the bat, the 32 days that you're allowed to fish for cod, for your table, the recreational fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, how does the 32 days compare to the Maritimes and the total number of days that you can fish there in a season? The second question is, you also mentioned, Mr. Stringer, here about a license is required to permit any recreational fisheries activity with the exception of course of Newfoundland and Labrador and the recreational cod fishery and some shell fish fisheries People are upset in Newfoundland and Labrador in that you're restricted from recreational cod fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador more so that in the Maritimes. Why not go back to a licence system whereby Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can fish over the course of the season? You're not restricted to two fishing times. That would cut down on health and safety concerns, going out in the water again when it's not fit to go out in the water. Is the department looking at that or would the department look at that? Mr. Kevin Stringer: Thank you for the question. I think there were two fundamental questions there. One is, what's the comparison between what we do in groundfish cod specifically in Newfoundland and elsewhere, and the other is what we think about a recreational licence regime. It is different in different regions and in different areas. It is largely dependent on the state of the stock and the number of people who we believe are fishing, and the impact that's going to have on the fishery. In the maritimes region, which is what we used to call Scotia Fundy, but it's basically coastal Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick, the season is much longer. The limits in terms of cod is 10 per day, or 5 per day depending on which particular area it's at. There's certain fish that you cannot retain so it is different, and it's different again in the gulf region and there's not a licence required for any of the regions in Atlantic Canada or Quebec for cod. So the specific management regime is different, depending on the circumstances, the number of people fishing, and our concern is conservation. I will speak particularly to the Newfoundland cod fishery, which is enormously important to the people. We do absolutely understand that and our objective is to ensure that there is an opportunity, but also that we get sustained growth in that fishery and that fish coming back. Members will know that northern cod has been at a very low level, but we are seeing signs of recovery. We were at 2% about a decade ago, 2% of what we call the limit reference point. The limit reference point is the average of the eighties. So we are at 2% in northern cod of the average of the eighties. The last advice we got, the last formal advice, about 18%. So we're not back to where we were, but we're nine times higher than we were. So the challenge is, we have a stewardship fishery for the commercial fishers, and we have a recreational fishery. The challenge in Newfoundland and Labrador is people absolutely love to do it, and if you open it for a day they're going to catch a lot of fish, and hence we need to find some way to manage it so that 32 days is the limit. There's other limits and I spoke to them. In terms of a licence, members will know—and certainly the member who asked the question will know—there used to be one, and we have from time to time established a recreational licence in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have licence regimes in some areas and not in other areas. We'll be interested to see the advice from this committee about what makes sense. It's not particularly popular with some of the recreational fishers to have a licence regime in place, and so we put them in place where we think there is real value, that it's going to help us understand what is caught, who is catching it, etc. Anyway, I'll stop there, but it is an interesting question. I'd be prepared to answer it again, but I know I've talked for a while. The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Stringer. Thank you, Mr. Cleary.

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