Newfoundland recreational cod fishery opens amid stock concerns, talk of licensing
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Copyright 2008 Press News Limited] By Tara Brautigam - July 23, 2008 - ST. JOHN'S, N.L., Throngs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will once again venture out to sea Wednesday to reel in cod for the kitchen table, despite concerns that stock levels are too fragile to sustain the largely self-regulated, recreational fishery.
Since 2006, people in the province have been allowed to fish inshore for northern cod without a licence or tags for several weeks. For many, it's become a cherished summer ritual that provides a tangible link with a centuries-old way of life.
Last month, federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn announced the resumption of the recreational fishery, along with a 30 per cent increase to the small-scale commercial fishery.
Hearn called it a cautious approach, saying Newfoundlanders have complied with the rules and that stock levels have grown slightly in the last two years.
But some scientists and environmental groups say there is little wisdom behind reopening the cod fishery just as the species is showing signs of rebounding from its collapse more than 15 years ago.
''I question sometimes the strength and the commitment of various levels of government to rebuilding the stocks,'' said George Rose, chairman of fisheries conservation at Memorial University in St. John's.
Rose said he agrees there are more cod than in the past, but that's because they are a species that tend to gather in clusters in some bays while avoiding other bodies of water.
''Nobody jumps up and down and says, 'Here's a big bay where there's no fish at all,''' he said.
Rose said he's not opposed to the concept of a recreational fishery, but the amount of fish being caught is too high.
Conservation concerns were renewed earlier this month when it was revealed that the federal Fisheries Department had two widely divergent estimates of the amount of cod taken during last year's recreational fishery.
According to one federal estimate, 540 tonnes of cod were caught. But a subsequent phone survey conducted externally for the department found that nearly five times that amount was landed.
''It tells me that management is a bit haphazard,'' said Robert Rangeley, vice-president for the Atlantic division of World Wildlife Fund.
During the recreational fishery, also known as the food fishery, there is a daily bag limit of five fish per person, or 15 fish onboard boats with three or more people.
Hearn said there will be increased monitoring this year to ensure compliance with the rules. He has floated the notion of bringing back licensing and tags for future recreational fisheries to keep better track of the fish that are caught.
''I guarantee it certainly wouldn't be anything that will keep the oldest, the youngest, or anybody in between from getting on the water,'' he said last week.
Larry Tremblett, a commercial fisherman in Bonavista, N.L., said some form of licensing or tagging should be implemented because some flagrantly abuse the rules.
''It's ridiculous what goes on,'' Tremblett said. ''Not everybody, but you got certain ones ... they're not out there just for a bit of feast to eat.''
Still, some argue that licences and tags are unnecessary.
''I really don't know what the problem is,'' said Gary Gale, a recreational fisherman in Hampden, N.L. ''If it's not broke, don't fix it.''
For several years until 2003, people in Newfoundland and Labrador had to obtain licences and tags to fish cod recreationally. That prompted complaints because people in other provinces weren't subject to that regulation.
While it's true the recreational cod fishery is more wide open in the Maritimes, the participation rate in that region is also much smaller than it is in Newfoundland, where tens of thousands of people take to the water every year.
In Newfoundland, the highly anticipated event appears to have as much to do with culture as it does with food.
The recreational fishery lasts until Aug. 12 and will open for another week Sept. 27.
The Organization for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries (OPRT) based in Tokyo will promote the attachment of tuna labels on a full scale with the aim to prevent overexploitation of tunas and to ensure that tunas marketed in Japan are harvested by the longline fishing methods that are friendly both to the resources and the marine environment.
The label, dubbed 'OPRT label,' will be attached to the merchandize on retailers' level throughout Japan.
OPRT made a pamphlet for circulation of the label and plans to distribute its copies at the Tokyo International Seafood and Technology to be held July 22-25.
The pamphlet, titled 'Now is the time to use wild resources with utmost care,' is designed to call on industry participants for the wide use of the label.
OPRT label was developed in 2002 by inviting ideas from ordinary consumers. It was specifically aimed at excluding from the market the tunas caught by IUU (illegal, unregulated and unreported)/FOC (flag of convenience) fishing vessels.
Now the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and other organizations have come to agreement on elimination of IUU/FOC fishing practices through such measures as the Positive List system.
Add to that, the OPRT membership expanded to 18 organizations, including producers in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and China, as well as the organizations of traders, distributors and consumers in Japan.
At present, 1,174 distant-water tuna longline fishing vessels, which account for the bulk of such vessels operating around the world, are registered in OPRT.
Furthermore, efforts have been advanced around the world to promote sustainable utilization of the resources, including introduction of marine eco-label systems.
Given these developments, OPRT considered that it is the opportune time to promote the use of tuna labels and highlight the sustainable use of the tuna resources.
OPRT Managing Director Yuichiro Harada said: 'Virtually all the wild, frozen and sashimi tunas, now marketed in Japan, are caught by OPRT member fishing vessels.'
'Those tunas have been caught pursuant to the rules of not increasing fishing capacity any more so that sustainability can be ensured,' he added. 'We hope that consumers will buy the tunas based on their interest in the purpose of labeling.'
The OPRT labels can be attached to all commodities of wild, frozen and sashimi tunas.
Details on contracts with OPRT for the use of labels will be formulated in the days ahead, but OPRT says it will not charge any fee, except for minimum management costs.
[Copyright 2008 Environment and Energy Publishing, LLC] - July 23, 2008 - Maryland researchers are testing new strategies to eliminate the more than 150 exotic species fouling the Chesapeake Bay.
Scientists at the Maritime Environmental Resource Center at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, funded by a federal grant for $5 million over five years, plan to test ultraviolet light, filters and chemicals to attempt to exterminate invasives such as the oyster-killing parasite MSX and the Chinese mitten crab.
'Everyone understands that our waterways are our lifeblood ... and we want to make sure our waterways are free of invasive species,' said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).
The center also will test methods to deny entry into the bay to invasive species, many of which were unintentionally introduced through ballast discharges from oceangoing vessels