The World Wildlife Fund would like to thank our Canadian hosts and NAFO for welcoming us here in Halifax. We have participated in NAFO annual and scientific council meetings for the past six years because we are committed to the vision of a rebuilt Grand Banks ecosystem and its valuable fisheries.
We are also committed to helping NAFO achieve its objective: the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources while safeguarding the marine ecosystems in which these resources are found. This is in accordance with the new amendment to the NAFO convention that will hopefully be ratified soon by all contracting parties.
At this Annual Meeting, the World Wildlife Fund will measure NAFO success through addressing four priorities:
Priority 1: Southern Grand Banks cod
NAFO took an important step last year in creating a new scientist-management working group with terms of reference that are in line with best practices for a rebuilding strategy.
The strategy is exactly what WWF has been advocating for cod recovery.
To allow further stock growth, NAFO should approve the following during the 2011 annual meeting:
1.1 Adopt the Interim 3NO Cod Conservation Plan and Rebuilding Strategy contingent on the development of 3NO bycatch mitigation measures by no later than the 2012 Annual Meeting.
1.2 Amend Article 12 (1) (b) of the Conservation and Enforcement Measures, so that in cases where a ban on fishing is in force, bycatch of the species concerned shall not exceed 625 kg or 2.5 %, whichever is the lowest for 3NO cod.
1.3 Maintain the Fishery Commission working group through 2014 to allow for further updates and development of the Interim 3NO Cod Conservation Plan and Rebuilding Strategy, including the development of a mathematically explicit harvest control rule.
1.4 Ensure that bycatch requirements for all fisheries are consistent with the newly adopted FAO International Guidelines on Bycatch Management and Reduction of Discards. 2
Priority 2: Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) and Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs)
The World Wildlife Fund applauds steps NAFO has taken in recent years towards meeting the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions on Sustainable Fisheries (61/105 and 64/72).
In order to maintain progress and meet commitments, NAFO should:
2.1 Establish a new process for reporting and reviewing all possible VME encounters (e.g. through the development of reporting guidelines). The proposed reporting and review system should be applied regardless of whether or not bycatch levels meet the thresholds indicated in the encounter protocols for corals and sponges, and should encompass all possible VMEs (as classified by NAFO’s Conservation and Enforcement Measures, Art. 1 bis paragraph 5 and paragraph 42 of the FAO Guidelines), which might include, but are not restricted to corals and sponges.
2.2 Amend Articles 37 and 38 of NAFO’s Conservation and Enforcement Measures to include as a serious infringement: “bottom fishing without prior submission to the Fisheries Commission of impact assessments in compliance with NAFO’s requirements on impact assessments under Article 4 bis paragraph 2.
2.3 Develop and adopt a multi-year standardized impact assessment schedule to fulfil the need for re-assessments in case no VMEs are found in the first instance, as provided for by the FAO Guidelines.
2.4 Reduce the Encounter protocol threshold for sponges fished with bottom trawl gear from 800kg to 30-50 per tow, as suggested by the NAFO Working Group on Ecosystem Approach on Fisheries Management, and request this working group to review the encounter threshold for corals.
2.5 Renew all the 11 Coral and Sponge Protection Zone closures and extend the lower boundary of Area 5 (Northeast Flemish Cap) closure to the 2500m contour.
2.6 Co-organize a scientific regional workshop to identify EBSAs, as requested by the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Priority 3: NAFO’s performance
In order to meet its commitment to improving performance, NAFO should:
3.1 Establish a process (e.g. create a working group) for addressing and prioritizing the recommendations from the 2011 Performance Assessment Review.
3.2 By 2016, conduct a transparent and independent review of the implementation of the 2011 Performance Assessment’s recommendations, as well as of NAFO’s performance in light of applicable international policy and legal frameworks.
Priority 4: Transparency
Last, by not least, NAFO should
Adopt a more transparent decision-making process by providing rationale for all adopted measures, particularly when those are not entirely consistent with scientific advice.
In closing I would like to invite you to our Panda Room to further discuss our conservation approach and to attend the Census of Marine Life Presentation by Professor Ron O’Dor co-hosted by WWF, the Ecology Action Center and PEW Environment Group on Wednesday at 6:30 PM at the Westin’s Mezzanine.
In July of this year, a study by Ken Frank and co-authors was published in Nature magazine. It showed that Atlantic cod off Nova Scotia is recovering from the dramatic collapse two decades ago, and that the ecosystem is recovering with them. Even though the two ecosystems are not identical by any means, this is a good indicator for the future of fisheries on the Grand Banks.