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Sea Shepherd Calls for a Twenty Year Closure of the Grand Banks

September 29, 2008

Sea Shepherd Calls for a Twenty Year Closure of the Grand Banks

"Unless the DFO closes the Cod fishery, the species will become commercially extinct by 1995. They must stop catering to the greed of the industry and the fishermen and act in the interest of preserving the species."

- Captain Paul Watson (1984)

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is calling for a two decade closure of the Newfoundland Grand Banks in order to save the Cod.

The Northern Cod fishery collapsed in 1992 despite warnings for over a decade previous that over-fishing was dangerously diminishing Cod populations.

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) displayed blatant conflict of interests in ignoring science to cater to the industry. The result was a total "surprise" collapse of the entire fishery.


The Cleveland Amory blocking Spanish trawler
nets in the Grand Banks, 1993

It certainly was not a surprise to conservationists. Captain Paul Watson had repeatedly warned the DFO that the fishery would collapse and the response was that he did not know what he was talking about and DFO scientists were "the best fishery scientists" in the world.

It turned out they were not scientists at all but biostitutes selling their "expertise" to appease the industry, telling the government what the government told them they wanted to hear.

Since 1992, sixteen years later, the Northern Cod has not recovered.

No one buys the myth anymore that the seals are destroying the cod. Scientists know that seals prey upon predators of young cod and that when you lower seal populations you actually increase predation on cod by other species of fish like capelin and mackerel.

The fish have not recovered for three reasons: (1) Their numbers were so reduced (less than 4% that other species are competing aggressively to fill their ecological niche. (2) Every time the inshore populations begin to recover, the DFO opens up a fishery to appease the fishermen. (3) Young cod are swept up in nets as by-catch by foreign and Canadian fishing operations on the Grand Banks.

 

We Need Vision, Determination and Enforcement to Save the Cod

Wasn't many years ago, that the men round here would go
Out in their skiffs and haul their traps out on the bay
And shortly they would return, loaded down from stem to stern
And weigh off the fish, and store the gear away.

And now the waters are as barren as the cliffs that guard the cove,
And catch the North wind blowing off the shore.
And I wonder how an ocean turns as lifeless as a stone*
And I wonder can the sea revive once more**

Will the Lie There Evermore
Newfoundland Folk Song
The Irish Descendants

* The answer of course to line seven, can be found in line three.
* The answer to line eight is yes - with a 20 year moratorium on all fishing on the Grand Banks.

 

Close the Grand Banks Now!

The problem in Canada is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is the single most inefficient, corrupt and incompetent federal government bureaucracy in Canada.

They have displayed gross mismanagement policies on both the West and East coast of the country for decades. They spend millions propping up the archaic seal hunt in order to appease the fishermen by demonizing the seals as the reason for the decline in the fisheries.

Yet at the time of Jacques Cartier and John Cabot's voyages of "discovery" of the Eastern seaboard there were some 45 million seals including the now extirpated populations of walrus and absolutely no shortage of fish.

Since then with seal populations reduced to less than 10% of the original numbers and cod diminished to less than 4% DFO continues to scapegoat the seals and wages an annual cruel war of annihilation  against harp and grey seals.

The DFO needs to get serious about saving the Cod and the only way they are going to do that is to allow nature to rectify the problem.

This can be done by calling for a strictly enforced fishery moratorium on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland - No fishing by anyone for any reason for two decades.

We have already wasted fifteen years of failed government policies that have seen a steady decline in cod populations.

Polynesians used to declare entire bays as "taboo" in order to protect the fish from over-fishing. The penalty for fishing in a taboo area was death.

That was how serious they took violations of conservation laws.

Canada needs to ban all fishing on the Grand Banks and aggressively enforce laws that strictly prohibit commercial fishing activity over the entire area including the Nose and the Tail of the Banks that sit outside the 200 mile economic exclusion zone.

Canada should also leave the seals alone to allow them to perform their natural role of being a moderating predator within the eco-system of the region.

"For over five hundred years we have looted the Grand Banks without much fore-thought for the future," said Captain Paul Watson. "90% of the damage has been done in the last fifty years and the fault lies primarily with the lack of vision, lack of action and lack of ecological understanding by the DFO. It's time to get serious because if the government fails to declare a twenty year moratorium as soon as possible, the Northern Cod will be extinct within a decade."

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is calling upon the Federal government of Canada to immediately declare a twenty year moratorium on all fishing of all species by any nation for any reason in the territory of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

 

History of Sea Shepherd Involvement with Northern Cod Conservation

1979: During the 1st Sea Shepherd campaign to protect harp seals, Captain Watson stated very clearly that it was not the harp seal that was a threat to the Cod fishery - it was over-fishing and mismanagement.

1984: Captain Paul Watson warns the Canadian government that the Northern Cod fishery will collapse due to over-fishing unless immediate action is taken. The government ignores the warning.

1992: At the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Brazil, Captain Watson spoke at a panel chaired by Jean Charest (currently Premier of Quebec) and by then Premier of Newfoundland Frank Wells. Captain Watson offered to come to the Grand Banks to police the area against illegal foreign fishing. Frank Wells said that Sea Shepherd's help would not be welcome. Sea Shepherd decided to go to the Banks the next year nonetheless.

1992: The entire Northern Cod Fishery is shut down when the Canadian dragging fleet fails to catch any fish.

1993: The Sea Shepherd ship Cleveland Amory under the command of Captain Watson chases the Cuban and Spanish fleets off the Nose and the Tail of the Grand Banks. Captain Watson is arrested and charged with three felony counts of criminal mischief and faces two life sentences plus 10 years.

March 9th, 1995: Embarrassed by Sea Shepherd's actions, Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Brian Tobin fires shots across the bow of the Spanish trawler Estai creating an international incident. It was all smoke and mirrors and politics but it was a stunt heard round the world and Sea Shepherd was satisfied that we had contributed to the effort. In a debate on CTV between Captain Watson and Brian Tobin, Captain Watson said to Tobin, "As one pirate to another Brian, what was the difference, besides the fact that you used guns, between your actions and mine in attacking a Spanish fishing vessel outside the 200 mile limit." Tobin answered that the difference was that he had the authority of Parliament and Captain Watson did not. Captain Watson replied, "So how did Parliament give you authority outside the 200 mile limit?" Tobin answered, "We're talking about saving the fish Paul, and sometimes that means being ahead of the law."
Captain Watson replied "Well Brian, I was two years ahead of you in being ahead of the law."

1995: Captain Paul Watson acquitted of the charges by reason of "colour of right" for acting in accordance with the U.N. World Charter for Nature.

2005: The Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat deploys numerous net ripping devices on the bottom of the Tail of the Banks to cut and damage the bottom trawl nets.

2007: The Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat loads 30 tons of steel tram rails in Melbourne to be made into net rippers to be deployed on the Grand Banks.

April 2008: The Farley Mowat is deployed to the Grand Banks and the Gulf of St. Lawrence on a mission to deploy net rippers and to gather evidence on illegal killing of seals by Canadian sealers.


Check out this article in the September 26th. 2008 edition of the New Scientist by Fisheries expert Debra MacKenzie:

'Cod delusion' leaves devastated stocks on the brink

By Debra MacKenzie

Fishing vessels on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland are this week destroying the best hope for years that the region's cod fishery, once the world's most abundant, might yet recover.

And at a meeting in Vigo, Spain, governments have rejected a simple measure that might have given the cod a fighting chance.

Cod fishing on the banks has been banned since 1992, after overfishing destroyed the stocks. Despite this, the cod have shown no signs of recovery. This was initially blamed on subtle, permanent changes to the ecosystem.
Baby by-catch

But in recent years another culprit has emerged - the few young cod still being spawned are being swept up in nets intended for other fish before they can spawn themselves. On average some 1500 tonnes of three-year-old cod are destroyed as by-catch in this way on the southern banks every year.

Two-thirds of this is caught outside Canadian waters, where fishing is managed internationally by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO).

Last year, NAFO ordered a 40% cut in cod by-catch in 2008. But, says Robert Rangeley, a fisheries scientist working for the conservation group WWF, data so far this year suggest that target has already been caught - and there are three months of fishing left to go.

This could be because the number of babies spawned by adult cod each year varies widely for reasons scientists do not yet understand. And 2005 was a bumper year, with possibly six times more fish surviving than in previous years.

"If they were left to grow up, they could become the nucleus of a real recovery," says Rangely. But this year those fish became big enough to be by-catch.
Missed opportunity

Meanwhile a discovery by scientists at the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St John's, Newfoundland, that could have slashed by-catch is being ignored.

Boats fishing for yellowtail flounder catch 85% of the Canadian cod by-catch. Joanne Morgan of DFO told NAFO last June that flounder nets catch the most cod between August and November, with a peak in September and October.

If the fishery was to shut for just those months, Canada's cod by-catch, a third of the total, could be cut by two-thirds - with no loss of flounder, which can be caught for the rest of the year. But the measure was not even discussed at NAFO's annual meeting this week.

Instead the assembled governments increased the permitted catch of flounder, and did not cut quotas for thorny skate, a catch that accounts for much of the cod by-catch outside Canadian waters and which NAFO's scientific advisors had wanted halved.

That means more dead, baby cod next year.

Reference:

'Cod delusion' leaves devastated stocks on the brink http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn14826-cod-delusion-leaves-devastated-stocks-on-the-brink.html
* 26 September 2008
* NewScientist.com news service
* Debora MacKenzie

 


 

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