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Newfoundland’s northern cod on rebound

March 28, 2017

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland (AP) — Northern cod are making a comeback off of Newfoundland and Labrador almost 25 years after a sweeping commercial fishing ban devastated the Canadian province.

A federal government report released Monday week said cod stocks continue to rebound, but warned catches should be kept to the lowest possible levels for now as a precaution.

The union representing fishermen and plant workers, however, wants to immediately expand the relatively small commercial cod fishery.

The report found that while total biomass was up 7 percent from 2015 to 2016, stocks are still well below what would be needed to sustain larger-scale fishing.

Canada announced a moratorium on the province’s commercial cod fishery on July 2, 1992, instantly throwing thousands of people out of work and sparking angry protests.

Karen Dwyer, a biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said any optimism must be tempered with patience as an unpredictable recovery unfolds. It will be about three years before new assessments offer more news of when the ban on large-scale commercial cod fishing may be lifted, she said

“I appreciate how harvesters are waiting with bated breath for this information,” she said.

The moratorium was initially to last two or three years, but stocks have been slow to rebound. A fishery that had sustained the island and its far-flung ports for more than 400 years had collapsed, with mismanagement, overfishing and climate change among the factors blamed.

Many harvesters have focused over the last 25 years on now-declining shrimp and crab stocks.

David Decker, secretary-treasurer of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers-Unifor union, said the recovery rates over the last decade are “phenomenal numbers” and not modest.

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