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Coastal Matters Speakers Series: Promoting the Conservation of Atlantic Cod Through the Improvement and Implementation of Cod Pots in NL

NOTE: This opportunity has expired or is an event which has already taken place.

Check the poster below, and the summary which follows.

Summary

The decline of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) populations is perhaps the developed world’s most famous example of failed fishery management. Large-scale fishing for cod ceased with the moratorium in 1992, and for the first time since the closure there are signs of population recovery. As a result, there is increasing public pressure to lift the moratorium and resume widespread commercial fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). The ecological costs of any fishery are linked to the industry’s fishing gear, and prior to the collapse of cod, the fishery was dominated by trawls and gillnets. The former destroys benthic habitats, while the latter produces high rates of bycatch (capture of non-target species). If the moratorium is lifted, it is likely that gillnets in particular will return to the fishery, potentially repeating the negative impacts on North Atlantic ecosystems that were observed in the past.

Pots – or baited traps used to capture fish and other aquatic species – produce lower bycatch and habitat destruction than many other gears and may be suitable as an alternative fishing gear for use in NL. Cod-potting benefits are not solely ecological, because the quality of meat retrieved from pot-caught cod is superior to the meat caught by traditional fishing methods. This quality results in a greater price per kilogram of cod; meaning fishermen can catch less fish to achieve similar profits. However, current pots have many drawbacks that act as a barrier for the widespread use of this gear.

In this study, we tested the effectiveness of two types of pots (heavy Newfoundland pots, and lightweight Norwegian pots) at catching cod, on commercial fishing vessels based off of Fogo Island, NL. We based our assessment on catch data, as well as on observations collected in situ using long-duration underwater cameras attached to cod pots. Our findings suggest that the smaller Norwegian pot is more efficient at harvesting cod. Operationally, Norwegian pots bear further advantages that make them especially suitable for use in commercial fishing conditions. In addition, underwater video has demonstrated that both types of pots are extremely selective, and have little observable impact on non-target species. Through video data, we observed that a substantial number of cod fail to complete entry attempts into pots, and that some cod escape prior to gear retrieval, suggesting that design modifications could further improve this gear for its use in a future commercial cod fishery.

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