Canada Will Do Anything to Save the Cod Except to Stop Fishing

Politicians Demand an Increase in Seal Kills The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society blasted the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans today for suggesting that there be an even higher kill of harp seals than the incredible 350,000 seals already condemned for this year.

The fishing communities of Newfoundland want to keep fishing for cod, and they intend to wipe out the seals to give them a few more years more to exploit more fish.

On March 17, an all-Party committee reported that the Newfoundland and Labrador cod fishery can be kept open if tough measures, including a bigger seal kill, are brought in.

The committee of federal and provincial politicians presented a report to Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault which recommended that a limited fishery be kept going in some areas.

Simply closing the fishery, as was done 10 years ago, "is not the answer," said Newfoundland Premier Roger Grimes.

(And catching fish is the answer - go figure)

In 1992, Ottawa imposed a moratorium designed to restore depleted groundfish stocks and in 1998 the moratorium was lifted to allow a drastically scaled-back cod fishery. However, surveys during the last four years suggest the northern cod population has since declined, and the quota is currently 5,600 tonnes, just two per cent of what it averaged in the 1980s.

Ottawa is expected to announce a decision by early April on conservation measures for the 2003 season and could close the remaining fishery off the south coast of Labrador, the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence and waters surrounding Newfoundland, except its southern coast.

Earlier this month, George Rose, a member of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, told fishermen that it may be time to take drastic action.

"It's kind of a last resort that we say we can't fish any more in Newfoundland," he said. "It's a last resort but maybe we've come to that."

John Efford, a Liberal MP who was chairman of the all-party committee, said Thibault assured them that no decision on closure has been made.

Grimes said the science of measuring fish stocks is debatable. While some researchers say the fishery has to stop if the fish are ever to rebound, others aren't so sure. The committee said fishermen aren't wiping out the cod stocks. A growing seal population and foreign overfishing are doing the real damage, it said.

The report suggested that the seal population be cut by half in certain areas.

Captain Paul Watson called the Newfoundland fishermen, "misguided fools."

"If they want the cod to return, they must allow for an increase in harp seal populations and not a decrease." Said Watson. "Harps seals prey upon species of fish that prey upon young cod. A decrease in harp seal populations will mean a corresponding increase in predatory fish populations. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has no idea of what they are talking about. The DFO has mismanaged every single fishery under its control. Decisions are being made because of political pressure from industry and labour. The simple solution is to leave the seals alone and let nature bring back the cod."

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is also recommending that the Grand Banks be protected from future drag trawling operations. There is a simple solution. Small ships should be cleaned and sunk on the banks to provide structure for the fish and to obstruct the setting of nets. The Society also proposes the sinking of thousands of cleaned, burnt and torn used auto bodies to be sprinkled on the Banks to obstruct and tear nets.

This is a solution that will stop foreign fleet takes on the Nose and the Tail of the Grand Banks. If the government of Canada was really serious about protecting the fish, they would be making the Grand Banks drag trawler proof with net tearing structures that would serve the dual purpose of providing the structure that the trawlers have long since destroyed.