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Eco-certification of Endangered Cod Population Undermines Credibility of the Marine Stewardship Council

Raises Questions on DFO Rebuilding of Atlantic Cod

by Ecology Action Centre

Eco-certification of Endangered Cod Population Undermines Credibility of the Marine Stewardship Council


Halifax, NS—A cod fishery located off the coast of Newfoundland was certified sustainable this week by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), despite concerns from environmental groups and fisheries scientists.

“This is the first of the iconic Newfoundland cod fisheries to be eco-certified,” says Dr. Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator at the Halifax based Ecology Action Centre. “While this should be good news, this population, referred to as 3Ps cod, is also up for listing under Canada’s Species At Risk Act. Eco-certifying a population that is severely depleted sends a very confusing message to consumers."

“We are supportive of sustainable fisheries, and recognize that the fishing industry in Newfoundland, both the inshore fleet and the offshore fleet, have done a considerable amount of work to improve this fishery,” says Fuller. “ However even with these efforts, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) stock assessment shows that the population has declined over the last three years, despite evidence of younger fish in 2011.And on top of that, the current quota of 13,490T, if caught – would take ~ almost 100% of the spawning stock. This seems completely contrary to DFO’s own policies on stock rebuilding and we feel that it is premature to certify this fishery as sustainable.

Alan Sinclair, a fisheries scientist with past experience in Atlantic Canadian cod fisheries explained that “the 3Ps cod fishery used to sustain catches of 50,000 MT per year for over 30 years between 1960-1990. The fishery rebuilding plan that MSC has certified here has a target to increase biomass back to only 20,000 t. This is clearly well below the potential population size of this fish stock and undermines the potential for recovery.

The Ecology Action Centre launched an objection to the certification through the MSC, a process that cost the group over $15,000, in hopes that greater conservation measures would be applied to the certification.  “We are very concerned about the precedent this sets for both fisheries management policy and rebuilding as well as certification of species that the Canadian government has determined are endangered, says Fuller. “Even DFO scientists were unable to assess whether or not the conservation plan would be successful.”

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For more information contact:

Susanna D. Fuller @ 902-483-5033

Alan Sinclair at 250-714-5690

Background information:

The MSC final determination for 3PS cod can be found here: https://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/north-west-atlantic/canada_newfoundland_3ps_co

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed the 3Ps population as endangered, twice – once in 2003 and it was denied listing under SARA in 2006 and again in 2010, where it is has been waiting 5.5 years for a listing decision. Marine fish in Canada tend to not be listed under SARA because it would close down many fisheries. COSEWIC Report is available here: http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct1/searchdetail_e.cfm?id=764&StartRow=1&boxStatus=All&boxTa

The fishery is certified at a time when landings are at an all time low (see figure below from 2015 DFO Stock Assessment) available here: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/SAR-AS/2015/2015_001-eng.pdf






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