A marine charity is urging caution in reopening the Atlantic redfish fishery
Oceana Canada wants Ottawa to be careful as it prepares to reopen the redfish fishery this spring after a decade-long moratorium.
The marine conservation group says the federal Fisheries Department needs a management plan to prevent the same overfishing that led to the fishery’s collapse 30 years ago.
Last month, federal Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier announced that the moratorium put in place in 1995 will end this year, with an initial total catch quota of at least 25,000 tons in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Jack Daly, a Halifax-based marine scientist with the non-profit Oceana, said the fishery can be successful if there is strict monitoring to ensure other fish species are not put at risk.
“Our concern is more about the process to maintain and operate this fishery,” Daly said in a recent interview. “What’s the plan? And most importantly, what is the monitoring plan? “
Details are yet to come on aspects such as monitoring, bycatch limits and individual allowable catch limits. The lack of detail is worrisome because the fishery is expected to open in May, Daly said.
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He added that monitoring is important because there are two types of redfish in the gulf. Deepwater redfish are considered healthy but the Acadian redfish population is not very strong.
According to figures released in 2023 by the federal Fisheries Department, the biomass of the gulf has grown significantly in the last decade to reach an average of 2.8 million tons for deepwater redfish and 420,000 tons for Acadian redfish.
According to Daly, the increase is due to the so-called “recruitment event” that happened between 2011 and 2013, which means that many baby fish were born and survived. But he warned that the fish will not grow as much as expected, while there is no evidence of an additional recruitment activity, which usually lasts 10 years or more.
“We actually have this large population that’s very homogeneous and they’re all the same size and all the same age,” Daly said. “They’re not as big as the industry wants them to be and they’re not expected to get any bigger.”
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Canada has a minimum catch size of about 22 centimeters in length, although Daly said before stocks collapsed in 1995 the fish reached lengths of 35 to 40 centimeters or more . He added that currently the redfish are usually 30 centimeters or less in size.
As a result, any monitoring regime must also help prevent the catch of small fish to keep stocks stable. “For a fishery to be healthy and sustainable you want to have a wide variety of ages and a wide variety of sizes,” he said.
Sylvie Lapointe, president of the Atlantic Groundfish Council, which represents large vessels in the coastal ocean, said that discussions on management measures for the fishery are scheduled to begin on March 4 at a meeting of the redfish industry-government. advisory committee.
In an interview Friday, Lapointe said little emerged from a meeting held a week ago with 130 stakeholders, other than a clarification from the federal department that the 25,000-ton number is the minimum that is allowed.
“There are no recommendations given … as to what the level of the total allowable catch should be for this year,” Lapointe said.
The federal Department of Fisheries was not immediately available for comment Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 9, 2024.
© 2024 The Canadian Press