Conservation is imperative, but don’t include cod in Species at Risk Act: Minister
Trevor Taylor, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, is requesting that the federal government not place the cod stocks adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador on the legal list of the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has recommended that the Newfoundland and Labrador codfish population (in NAFO area 2GHJ3KLNO) be listed as "endangered," and that the Laurentian North population (in area 4RS3Pn3Ps) be listed as "threatened." If either is listed as recommended by COSEWIC under SARA, it will be an offence to harm a member of these stocks or to damage its residence, except under very restrictive conditions as outlined in the Act. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has begun public consultations to discuss the listing of these cod populations and related socio-economic impact.
Today, while cautioning the need for continued conservation measures, Minister Taylor stated that the province does not support COSEWIC’s recommendations. "Based on available data," said the minister, "the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s position is that the committee’s recommendation of ‘threatened’ for the Laurentian North population should be rejected outright. The Laurentian North codfish population contains over 200,000 tonnes of biomass, of which 150,000 tonnes are mature spawners. These data indicate to us that this population is not a species at risk.
"The provincial government’s view is that COSEWIC failed to consider some important research on the inshore portion of the Newfoundland and Labrador shelf population," said Minister Taylor. "The committee made no effort to gather community knowledge on the status of the stock as required under SARA. So, the knowledge of the many fish harvesters who have spent their working lives observing the cod stocks off our coasts appear to have had no validity under the COSEWIC assessment process. Moreover, while DFO is taking positive steps to inform provincial residents of the committee’s recommendations, a COSEWIC representative is unavailable to explain at these sessions how its conclusions were reached. The provincial government is therefore recommending that this assessment be sent back for re-evaluation."
Minister Taylor also warned that there is still considerable reason for concern about the future of the once plentiful cod stocks. "There is no question that the Newfoundland and Labrador population of Atlantic cod is far below its historic level. On both sides of the 200-mile international limit, harvesters need to exercise due care in considering the status of fish stocks and their place in the ecosystem," said the minister. "Most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians recognize the importance of working with all levels of government to rebuild these stocks. We are just not prepared to accept the process used by COSEWIC that impacts our people but which lacks transparency and inclusiveness."
Minister Taylor will be forwarding a letter to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Geoff Regan that will formally outline the province’ s views on the matter.
Media contact: Alex Marland, Communications, (709) 729-3733
2004 10 15 11:30 a.m.