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

Chemainus sea walk plans get a boost

North Cowichan to sign right-of-way agreements with VIHA

Local beekeeper wants residents to use pesticides more responsibly

Paula Masyk has kept bees for a little over two months, and has had two pesticide events since then

Sizzling season starts with Summer Fest celebrations in Chemainus

Rotary Club event features plenty of food, entertainment and a parade

Memorial Midget C Hockey Tournament supports Puska

Ladysmith man in need of a kidney transplant receiving abundant financial contributions

BREAKING: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

Police make arrest after report of a man brandishing a gun at Campbell River-area lake

43-year-old man from the Comox area has since been charged with multiple offences

B.C. high school withdraws notices for temporary dress code

Parents previously told the Interior News they felt there was inadequate consultation over the rules

VIDEO: Toronto Raptors announcer credited with calming crowds after shooting

Matt Devlin, the Raptors’ play-by-play announcer since 2008, was praised for preventing panic from spreading

Mini-horse visits residents at Lower Mainland care home

Gunner turned a visit with grandpa into a major event for everyone at the residence

Women sue former Vancouver cop over alleged sexual abuse during pimp case

Two women claim James Fisher caused psychological trauma during the Reza Moazami investigation

First ever Indigenous person to join the RCMP to be honoured in B.C.

Hawk Kelly said becoming a Mountie was his dream job as a kid

Most Read