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Ecosystem considerations

Photos courtesy of BIO - Bedford Institute of Oceanography

Biological resources are influenced by physical, chemical and biological characteristics of their environment. Although scientists have made considerable progress in understanding the relationships among fish and their environment, it remains very difficult to quantify and model these interactions.

The importance of environmental changes for fish stock development has been recognized by ICNAF and NAFO for over half a century and in the early-nineties Scientific Council established a Standing Committee on Fisheries Environment (STACFEN) and started publishing its findings together with the scientific advice to Fisheries Commission.

STACFEN publishes documents and meeting reports that are included in the Scientific Council Meeting Reports. One important publication resulting from the work of STACFEN is the electronic Ocean Climate Summary Report. Also available on the NAFO website fact sheets about the regulated species of NAFO.  Other sources of information about living resources found in the Northwest Atlantic are found here at fishbase.org.

The Ecosystem Approach: In 2007 Scientific Council established a Study Group on the Ecosystem Approach. This group first met in the spring of 2008. This group became the Scientific Council Working Group on the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (WGEAFM), which met annually to provide guidance to Scientific Council on specific ecosystem-related issues and requests from the Fisheries Commission. This group also operates within a set of long-term Themes and Terms of Reference that are being systematically addressed by the group into the future. These build on the "Roadmap for Developing an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries for NAFO" (Roadmap to EAF). In 2013 this working group changed its name to the Working Group on Ecosystem Science and Assessment (WGESA).

In 2008 an ad hoc Fisheries Commission Working Group of Fishery Managers and Scientists (FCWG FMS-VME) was established to consult with Scientific Council, and provide recommendations to Fisheries Commission. In 2013 a joint Fisheries Commission-Scientific Council Working Group on Ecosytem Approach to Fisheries Management was developed that will report to both Fisheries Commission and Scientific Council.

In 2009, NAFO published a Coral Identification Guide to help those on-board commercial and research fishing vessels to identify and record the various species of coral likely to be commonly encountered in fishing trawls. In 2010 this was followed by a Sponge Identification Guide. As well a fishery data collection form for identifying species of corals and sponges has been included in the NAFO Conservation and Enforcement Measures. In 2012, drawing on the latest scientific information, NAFO expanded the list of VME indicator species (now recognizing 67 species which signal a potential VME) and adopted a new list of VME elements in line with the FAO International Guidelines. In 2015, the FAO produced a VME database.

Over the years, Scientific Council has organized quite a few conferences (symposia and workshops) focusing on environmental issues, most recently for example:

In addition, ecosystem and environmental considerations play a role in many scientific publications of the NAFO Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science.

Some links to other environmental information of the NW Atlantic:

  • Townsend et al. 2004. Oceanography of the Northwest Atlantic Continental Shelf (1,W). Chapter 5 in: Robinson, A.R. and K.H. Brink (eds). The Sea: The Global Coastal Ocean: Interdisciplinary Regional Studies and Syntheses. Harvard University Press (in press)
  • Piper & Campbell. 2002. Surficial Geology of the Scotian Slope, Eastern Canada; Geological Survey Canada, Current Research 2002-E15, 10p.
  • Computer Atlas of the Northwest Atlantic (CANWA) run by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography

Contact us

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
2 Morris Drive, Suite 100
(Burnside Industrial Park)
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Canada B3B 1K8

Tel: +1 902 468-5590
Fax: +1 902 468-5538

Email: info@nafo.int

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