Study shows economic benefits of patient approach to northern cod recovery

Northern cod’s of huge importance to coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador

A slow and steady approach to rebuilding the northern cod stock could see employment in the crucial fishery skyrocket in just over a decade, according to a new study.

The report was released Thursday by advocacy group Oceana Canada as one of six case studies assessed by University of British Columbia fisheries economists in a larger report considering the social and economic benefits of rebuilding Canada’s fisheries.

ALSO READ: Where there’s smoke, there’s fish

The economists project that within 11 years, under favourable environmental conditions and low fishing pressure, a rebuilt northern cod fishery could support 26,000 jobs — 16 times more than today. Economic activity generated by the fishery could reach $233 million, up from its current level of $33 million.

“Our results suggest that bearing this short-term cost can lead to economic benefits, which in the long term are an improvement over maintaining the status quo,” the full report reads.

The study spoke to the northern cod’s status as an “iconic species” of huge importance to the coastal communities of northeastern Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It (northern cod) stands as a symbol of the bounty and prosperity that supported massive fisheries …. It also is a symbol of loss and the devastating consequences of overfishing,” the study read.

“Signs of a fragile recovery of northern cod bring hope, and with it, opportunities to (correct) the wrongs of the past.”

Researchers ran several scenarios, but even under the poorest environmental conditions, the study projected the value of northern cod, if allowed to rebuild to a healthy status with low fishing pressure, would exceed its value under current practices.

The northern cod projections were set against a “status quo” catch. The status quo was defined as 13,000 tonnes of fish landed annually while a low fishing catch was defined as 9,500 annual tonnes.

The commercial cod fishery, once the backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishing industry, collapsed and was placed under a moratorium in 1992, throwing thousands out of work and sparking protests.

Federal fisheries officials reported this year that the stock has made significant gains over the last few years but warned that it is still in a critical zone.

Oceana Canada’s projections are consistent with advice given by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans when it release its annual report last month. DFO advised keeping cod removal at the “lowest possible levels” until population numbers clear the critical zone.

The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union responded to DFO’s latest report by advocating for “modest increases in harvest rates” and arguing these increases would not significantly impact the stock’s growth.

Oceana Canada’s science director Robert Rangeley said in an interview that northern cod was chosen as a case study because it has great potential. “It’s been showing … some evidence of kind of a fragile recovery. It’s going in the right direction,” Rangeley said.

“Should we be patient, or should we be rushing in and fishing it now? I think this adds little bit more evidence that a patient approach will reap benefits in the future.”

Rangeley said rebuilding plans are a key but often missing piece to restoring the healthy status of Canadian stocks.

The cod study noted that just five of Canada’s fish stocks assessed as “critically depleted” have rebuilding plans in place, and not all of these follow global best practices.

Rangeley said these plans should keep the needs of coastal communities in mind, but he said the biggest payoff will come if the stocks are able to rebuild to a healthy level because of reduced fishing pressure.

“We still have to rebuild these stocks, and that’s where the value is going to come. That’s the investment,” Rangeley said.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Smithers students march down Main Street in support of global climate strike

The group also protested in front of the Ministry of Environment building and Town Hall

WATCH: Alex Cuba previews new album at Sept. 19 listening party

“Sublime” was released worldwide digitally on Sept. 20, 2019.

‘It affects everybody:’ Trudeau’s brownface photos worry Wet’suwet’en chief

Skeena-Bulkley Valley Liberal candidate declines to comment on prime minister’s indiscretion

Jonker death accidental, inquest yields five recommendations

Jury wants RCMP to review handcuff policy and implement pepper spray decontamination procedure

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Most Read