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

Photos from Kelowna’s 39th annual Terry Fox Run

Residents of Kelowna took on cancer in the rain and had a blast.

Kelowna classroom where child allegedly overdosed re-opens after cleaning

An 8-year-old was unresponsive and unable to walk after ingesting an unknown substance at school.

Rockets lose to Blazers in nail-biting shootout

The Rockets came back to tie the game 2-2, but would ultimately lose in a nine-round shootout.

Okanagan brothers recognized with medals of bravery for saving four from drowning in 2013

The two brothers saved four from drowning after they were swept into the rough waters of Wood Lake.

Kelowna author releases 2nd book with stories of overcoming personal trauma

The launch for Diana Reyers’ Trauma to Recovery comes to Kelowna Sept. 21

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Video: Rain doesn’t deter Terry Fox runners in Salmon Arm

Dozens showed up to continue the Canadian icon’s marathon of hope.

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

Road block was costly legal battle for Summerland

Resolving Garnet Valley dispute took six years

Most Read