The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) took critical steps at its meeting last week in St. Petersburg, Russia (September 17-21) to bring fishery management into the 21st century, seizing an important moment for stock recovery as well as a burgeoning market for sustainable seafood.
The recovering ground fish stocks such as yellowtail flounder on the Grand Banks and cod on the Flemish Cap is an encouraging sign of progress.
However, early stock recoveries are fragile and depend on smart, science-based management to achieve their potential.
NAFO’s move to strengthen its science-base, by addressing the long and overdue issue of inaccurate catch estimates, will guard these gains and enable further recovery. The commitment to improve data collection, triggered by NAFO’s independent performance review, will also bolster the sound conservation plans and rebuilding strategies for stocks such as the iconic Grand Bank cod.
Despite these positive steps, there is still resistance from some contracting parties to important science-based management decisions such as closing vulnerable marine areas that play a critical role in broader ecosystem health. The blocking of these important decisions demonstrates that an outdated mindset—one focused on short-term business gains instead of long-term, sustainable opportunities—still hampers the potential of our oceans.
Bettina Saier, director WWF Canada's Oceans Program, said: “By taking steps to improve data collection and reporting, NAFO will be better equipped to make sound management decisions.
"Accurate catch data is critical to the recovery of fish stocks and will ultimately underpin the fishing industry’s ability to capitalize on a lucrative sustainable seafood market. However, we still need to get all parties involved to see the bigger picture. And that means making decisions to close areas that we know are critical to broader ecosystem health.”
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