The 40th annual week-long meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) ended on Friday in Tallinn, Estonia, where there were a number of measures accepted by Canada and other NAFO member contracting parties aimed at improving the monitoring and management of international fish stocks outside Canada’s 200-mile limit in the Northwest Atlantic.
In addition to the traditional total allowable catch (TAC) and quota decisions made, other decisions included:
• Adoption of an exceptional circumstances protocol for NAFO’s Greenland halibut management strategy evaluation (MSE);
• Adoption of a comprehensive revision to the NAFO Observer Program to enhance the quality of data being collected by NAFO observers;
• Agreement on a schedule for the management strategy evaluation plan for cod in the Flemish Cap (Division 3M), including setting a harvest control rule for the stock;.
• Continuation of efforts towards further developing its ecosystem approach to fisheries management by requesting that the NAFO Scientific Council develop a three-to-five year work plan to ensure its prioritization and support.
NAFO, founded in 1979, manages about 19 commercial stocks by setting TACs, bycatch restrictions, minimum catch size, fishing season and area openings and closings. NAFO regulations also cover vessel and gear requirements, chartering arrangements, product labelling requirements and catch reporting requirements.
In 2017, 45 vessels fished in the NAFO Regulatory area going after mostly groundfish such as cod, Greenland halibut, redfish and skates, and shrimp.
Member contracting parties, other than Canada, include Cuba, Denmark (in respect of Faroe Islands and Greenland), European Union, France (in respect of St. Pierre et Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Ukraine and United States of America.
The exceptional circumstances protocol for the Greenland halibut MSE was adopted in response to an event or observation by NAFO’s scientific council which is outside of the range of possibilities considered within the MSE. It would allow the Fisheries Commission, if an exceptional circumstance arose in the stock, to over-ride the TAC and order a review of the management strategy.
Some examples which could constitute exceptional circumstances are: estimated recruitments in the assessment no longer appear to be consistent with the range of recruitments considered in the MSE; estimates of fishing mortality that are outside the range of values generated in the MSE; estimates of exploitable biomass that are outside the range of values generated in the MSE.
Ongoing Scientific Council analysis related to this stock may also identify other situations which warrant consideration as exceptional circumstances.
“Advice provided by Scientific Council which suggests the occurrence of exceptional circumstances should be based on compelling evidence and should include sufficient detail to allow Fisheries Commission to take an informed decision on implementation of the management strategy and possible next steps,” a NAFO document states.