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Atlantic Cod At Risk Of Extinction

by the Fish Site Editor
05 May 2010, at 1:00am

CANADA - Numbers continue to decline for most Atlantic Cod populations, according to COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) which recently assessed the risk of extinction for 51 Canadian wildlife species last month.

COSEWIC, the national advisory body on species at risk, has increased the number of Atlantic cod units listed as endangered based on assessment results released. COSEWIC has classified four of the six cod units in Canada as endangered. These findings present further evidence that Canada’s management and legislative tools to prevent overfishing and to rebuild depleted fish stocks have been ineffective, and are jeopardizing Canada’s export market for seafood.

Although good policy on sustainable fisheries management does exist in Canada, implementation on Atlantic groundfish fisheries has occurred slowly, if at all. Progress is needed to ensure legislative tools that enable the rebuilding of depleted stocks, such as Atlantic cod, are consistent with those used to manage stocks throughout much of Europe and the United States.

“It’s time to hold the federal government accountable to manage, conserve, and develop the fisheries on behalf of Canadians”, says Bettina Saier, Director, Oceans, WWF-Canada.

“If the government is committed to sustainable fisheries management, then it needs to demonstrate that commitment by establishing science-determined recovery plans now.”

The consumer demand for quality, sustainably-managed seafood is increasing, especially in Europe and the United States, and major national and international retailers are reacting to this demand. The growing number of companies pledging to source sustainable seafood products, coupled with the growing number of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries worldwide, will affect the ability of Atlantic Canada’s cod industry to compete in the global marketplace.

COSEWIC’s recent assessment confirms that recovery plans for endangered cod stocks are urgently needed to enable a profitable fishery in the long-term that meets the standards of eco-conscious retailers and consumers.

A plan that includes recovery targets and limit reference points, timelines for rebuilding, and harvest control rules based on these targets and limit reference points must be implemented for Canada’s Atlantic cod stocks.

The Government of Canada must also introduce language to its fisheries management policies and fishery management plans that binds the government to respect and adhere to these targets and timelines, since current legislation allows the government to make ad hoc fishery management decisions.

“Canada has an opportunity to align itself with its US and EU counterparts by introducing science-determined cod recovery plans”, says Shelley Dwyer, Fisheries Conservation Advisor with WWF-Canada. “It is our responsibility to recover and maintain the health of our oceans for future generations.”

the Fish Site Editor