The EU pleased with NAFO’s continued commitment to the conservation of international fish stocks and the protection of Atlantic ecosystems
Thanks to the continued commitment of the European Union to follow scientific advice and its close cooperation with partner countries, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) adopted science-based, precautionary measures for the conservation and management of its fish stocks and ecosystems at its Annual Meeting held in Halifax, Canada, on 19-23 September 2011.
NAFO set total allowable catches (TACs) for a number of its stocks under its purview, including cod and redfish in the Flemish Cap strictly in line with the scientific advice, at 9280 tonnes and 6500 tonnes respectively.
Unfortunately for the third important stock on the Flemish Cap – shrimp – NAFO was unable to reopen the fishery closed last year due to enduring bad condition of the stock.
Likewise, the continuing downward trend for the shrimp stock in the Grand Banks led NAFO to significantly decrease fishing opportunities from 19200 tonnes in 2011 to 12000 tonnes in 2012 and 9350 tonnes in 2013.
NAFO was able to reap the benefits of the work carried out in the previous years – as a result of the adoption of a ground-breaking management procedure for one of its most important stocks – Greenland Halibut – last year, the TAC for 2012 was set at 16382 tonnes in accordance with the rule.
NAFO also formally adopted Conservation Strategies and Rebuilding Plans developed earlier this year for two of its stocks under moratoria – Grand Banks cod and American Plaice in order to accelerate their recovery and agreed to continue this valuable work for other species under a fishing ban.
In line with its Action Plan for the protection of elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates), the EU worked with NAFO Contracting Parties to lower the TAC for thorny skates for conservation of these vulnerable species.
The EU was instrumental in ensuring that NAFO took further action on the protection of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems from the significant adverse impacts of bottom fisheries by tabling a proposal (co-sponsored by Canada) for an extension of the closed area 5 (Flemish Cap Northeast Prong) in order to protect the most interesting arrangement of corals and sponges communities identified so far in the NAFO Area. The EU also co-sponsored a US proposal to conduct a reassessment of the impact of NAFO bottom fisheries on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems by 2016 and every five years thereafter.
Most importantly, NAFO lowered the threshold for sponge indicator species which trigger reporting obligations and well as a move-away rule in the existing fishing areas (with a temporary closure in new fishing areas) to 600 kg (down from 800kg) for existing fishing areas and 400kg (down from 800kg) for new fishing areas. This decision promises to bring more information about encounters of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems in NAFO waters to the NAFO Scientific Council for further action on their protection in the future. The EU hopes that other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations will be able to follow suit.
NAFO also agreed to extend the closures of its sponge and coral protection zones to 2014, when more information from the scientific project NEREIDA is due to become available.
NAFO committed to work inter-sessionally to develop a concrete course of action to implement the recommendations of the Performance Review (PR) carried out earlier this year. Moreover, upon EU’s leadership, NAFO took important steps for increased transparency already at this meeting, in line with the PR panel recommendations.
The EU regrets however that the NAFO Contracting Parties were not in a position to act on another of Performance Review recommendations and adopt the EU/US proposal for a resolution concerning climate change and its potential effects on NAFO fishery resources.
The European Commission is convinced that the measures adopted by NAFO at this Annual Meeting will yield long term environmental and socio-economic benefits ensuring good condition of the fish stocks and the ecosystem and an economic viability for NAFO fishermen.
The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) was established in 1979, with the objective of contributing to the optimum utilisation, rational management and conservation of the fishery resources of the Convention Area. Its current Contracting Parties are Canada, Cuba, Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, France (in respect of St. Pierre et Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States of America.