It would be impossible to imagine Canada’s history without Newfoundland cod. The historic cod fisheries of the east coast attracted local and international fishing fleets for almost five centuries before the Canadian government shut the industry down indefinitely in July 1992. By that point, the spawning biomass of northern cod had dropped by about 93 percent in only 30 years – from 1.6 million tonnes in 1962 to between 72,000 and 110,000 tonnes in 1992.
Canada has been waiting a long time for some good news on the cod stock front, and it looks as though there may finally be some. According to a recent independent assessment, Newfoundland’s northern cod stock has grown since 2006, and goals have been set for even further improvement.
In the spring of 2015, WWF-Canada launched a new Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) in Atlantic Canada in partnership with harvesters. The FIP is a multi-step, multi-stakeholder initiative aiming to improve fishing practices and management to help the northern cod fishery rebuild and meet or exceed the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable fisheries.
“WWF-Canada is pleased to see that northern cod is showing quite spectacular signs of recovery. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but with the stock health improvements we’ve seen so far, we are confident that the comprehensive Fisheries Improvement Project we’re undertaking along with FFAW-Unifor and other partners will help build on these positive trends,” says David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada.
Let’s raise a cautiously optimistic toast to the return of Canada’s cod stock – a sustainability achievement we could all be proud of.