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DFO releases Northern Cod harvesting plan

Editor Rene J. Roy on a cod fishing trip. – © File photo


PORT AUX BASQUES — On July 9, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) released details surrounding the Northern Cod Harvesting Plan. The new plan features an earlier start date for the fishery, and increased weekly harvest limits. However, the total allowable catch may be less than what fishermen have been hoping for.

The fishery opened on Sunday, July 25, and there will be an increase in the weekly harvest limit from 2,300 lbs to 3,200 lbs. As usual, the option to choose different fishing periods will be offered to fishermen.

Harvesters can choose to either fish the entire season at the weekly catch limits, or they may decide to fish during Period 2 from Sept. 5 to Oct. 30 in Division 2J, or fish during the fall from Sept. 12 to Oct. 30 in Division 3KL.

In Division 2J only, harvesters that chose Period 2 will not be able to fish prior to Sept. 5, fishing only to Oct. 30, with a bi-weekly limit of 25,000 lbs. In Division 3KL only, harvesters that chose the fall option will not be able to fish prior to Sept. 12, and can fish to Oct. 30, with a base weekly limit of 8000 lbs.

Also, they can choose instead to fish on those dates with a base bi-weekly limit of 16,000 lbs., which must be harvested outside the 12-mile limit. Those choosing the latter option must also have a DFO approved Vessel Monitoring System on board.

Those who did not select Period 2 or the fall option by the deadline will be given conditions that will authorize them to fish in the same NAFO area as their home port.

The North Atlantic Fishery Organization (NAFO) division 2J will open on Aug. 1s and close on Oct. 30. NAFO division 3KL will open on July 25 and will also close on Oct. 30.

NAFO division 2J will have a bi-weekly authorized catch limit of 25,000 lbs from the eight weeks between Aug. 1 and Sept. 25. NAFO division 3KL will have a base weekly authorized catch limit of 3,200 lbs/week, July 25 to Sept. 11, and 4,000 lbs/week from Sept. 12 to Oct. 30.

Those who have acquired additional cod shares by enterprise combining will have their catch limits adjusted and will be identified in their license conditions.

Additionally, the Department of Fisheries announced that the first 115,000 metric tons of cod caught will be available for Indigenous fishermen, as well as other inshore fishermen. At a total allowable catch level of less than or equal to 155,000 metric tons, directed fishing will be allotted to the inshore harvesters and Indigenous fishermen. Other fleets will be limited to by-catch only, where no quota is given.

In Dec. 2020, DFO had made efforts to curtail the cod fishery in an effort to consolidate the rebuilding plan for the cod stocks. The current increase would seem to point towards the success of that effort.

Though this may be controversial, a greater factor in the cod stocks could be the naturally high mortality rate from environmental factors, predators, and low prey stock for cod. Another factor is likely the pandemic that prevented 2020’s fishing season from going into full swing.

Additionally, the recreational groundfish fishery will be open for 39 days in total, and will have no requirement for licenses or tags, and is open to both residents and non-residents. Retention limits for recreational fishers will be limited to five groundfish per day, which includes cod.

The maximum boat limit with three or more fishers will be 15 groundfish per boat. However, tour boat operators will be able to apply for a license to increase their trip limit, with reporting requirements.

It will be prohibited in the ground fishery to retain any Atlantic halibut, spotted and Northern wolffish, or any type of shark. Also, any groundfish caught must be retained up to the bag limit, but sculpins and conners can be released. High-grading is also not permitted, as no fish are to be wasted, and they should be kept in an identifiable state for official spot checks.

For the ground fishery, gear with a maximum of three hooks are permitted, with traditional jiggers not permitted. Fishing will only be permitted from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset, as a safety precaution.

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