Decisions made at a meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization will help cod recover and protect vulnerable cold-water corals off the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador.
WWF is encouraged by the move at NAFO's annual meeting in Lisbon to commit to protecting marine ecosystems and adopting precautionary approaches. This commitment was accepted by a consensus of parties of NAFO in their newly revised convention. "For some time NAFO has been talking about protecting habitats and recovering depleted stocks,” said Dr Robert Rangeley, WWF-Canada's Vice President for the Atlantic.
“Today, NAFO has begun to move from words to action by committing to conservation measures that, when implemented, will make a real difference on the water.”
This year, NAFO countries committed to a southern Grand Banks cod recovery strategy, which includes an immediate bycatch reduction target of 40%. Bycatch, the unintended harvesting of non-targeted species, is the single most important factor in the continued decline of cod stocks. Current cod stocks are roughly 6% of their historical abundance.
In addition, NAFO has committed to an immediate ban of all bottom-fishing activities on the southwest slope of the Grand Banks in depths between 800m and 2000m. This closure captures part of a coral hotspot identified in WWF-Canada’s coral bycatch report — authored by scientists at Memorial University of Newfoundland — which was released earlier this month. This is an initial step in a process that will see NAFO identify vulnerable habitats such as those containing corals over the next year and develop measures for their protection.
“We are very encouraged with the measures undertaken this week as they have met most of our pre-meeting conservation expectations,” continued Rangeley.
“Canada, in particular, should be noted for its leadership in proposing measures to protect both cod and coral and working to see them adopted. These are critically important steps that will take hard work and goodwill in order to succeed. We look forward to working with NAFO and all its contracting countries in the future to continue to restore the Grand Banks ecosystem, so that those nations and individuals that have relied on its resources can continue to do so in the future.”
It is anticipated that additional measures will be implemented at next year's annual meeting, held next September in Spain.
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