The slight improvement in cod stocks in recent years off Newfoundland and Labrador is already on a downward trend, according to the latest surveys by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Stocks have been showing encouraging signs since 2012, but according to the valuation released on Friday, 2017 has been a difficult year. Inventories would have decreased by 30% to 315,000 tonnes.
The biggest cause of this decline is the natural fish mortality rate, There is a high probability that the fall in stocks will continue this year, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“This kind of increase in natural fish mortality can happen and is very difficult to predict,” says Karen Dwyer, a scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
There are indications that capelin and shrimp, sources of food for cod, are not present enough either, she says.
When asked if the commercial cod fishery will be back soon, Ms. Dwyer says it is a game of patience.
“We are still in a critical area,” she says. We see improvements in some places, but to others, things are not going so well. ”
The department has no deadline for the reinstatement of the commercial cod fishery.
The fishing mortality rate has also been rising since 2015. This is a sign that the industry is still in a critical zone, according to Ms. Dwyer.
The preservation of quotas as low as possible is, for the moment, the recommendation of scientists.
The union representing fishers in Newfoundland and Labrador is cautious when it comes to assessing stocks.
“Although this is not the news the fishermen wanted to hear, there are still fluctuations in this type of assessment. That was to be expected, “says union president Keith Sullivan in a press release.
The World Wildlife Fund, for its part, described the situation as a “major setback”.