TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 21, 2012) - The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) took critical steps at its meeting this 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 stock 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 The blocking of these important decisions demonstrates that an outdated mindset-one focused on short-term business gains instead of long-term, sustainable opportunities-still hampers the potential of our oceans.
"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."
--Bettina Saier, Director, Oceans Program, WWF-Canada
To view WWF's Recommendations for NAFO's Annual Meeting visit: http://www.wwf.ca/conservation/oceans/approach/
• Data collection and reporting was significantly improved through standardizing observer protocols, availability of vessel monitoring system data and tow-by-tow catch data to the Scientific Council.
• Mostly consistent with the scientific advice, total allowable catches were set for 10 stocks while 3 stocks (3M shrimp, 3LNO American Plaice, 3NO witch flounder) remained under moratorium.
• 5 of 12 contacting parties have ratified the amended NAFO convention that allows for a greater focus on conservation, ecosystem science and rebuilding of depleted fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic.
WWF is creating solutions to the most serious conservation challenges facing our planet, helping people and nature thrive. www.wwf.ca.