NAFO Performing Well –

NAFO Performing Well Published:  26 September, 2011

An independent review by an international panel of experts assessed the performance of Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) and their findings and recommendations were presented at NAFO Annual Meeting in Halifax, Canada, last week.

NAFO has been commended for its performance, particularly in recent years with the introduction of the Precautionary Approach, Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs).

The panel’s recommendation for further improvements to the effectiveness of NAFO as a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) will be addressed in a working group which will formulate Plans of Action for the short, medium and long-term.

At this week’s annual meeting of NAFO a range of conservation and fisheries management measures were adopted for 20 commercial fish stocks managed by NAFO in international waters and straddling national fishing limits based on the precautionary approach. Moratoria were continued for eight stocks and TACS established for all others. TACs have been reduced for five NAFO stocks.

To ensure the implementation of effective measures to prevent significant adverse impacts of bottom trawl activities on vulnerable marine ecosystems in the NAFO Regulatory Area based on the best available scientific information, closures of 18 areas to bottom fishing including seamounts and coral and sponge protected areas and review dates have been extended to 2014. The NAFO Scientific Council continues its work to improve knowledge on marine ecosystem in the Northwest Atlantic.

NAFO has refined Conservation Plans and Stock Rebuilding Strategies (CPRS) for protected and recovering fish stocks, Cod Div. 3NO and American plaice Div. 3LNO, based on collaborative work between fishery managers and scientists. Witch flounder in Div. 3NO will be reviewed with a potential to develop a rebuilding plan in the coming year. Under CPRS bycatch issues, which take into consideration interactions between species, will be addressed.

NAFO has implemented an agreed management strategy for fishing on Greenland halibut stocks. This strategy is based on abundance trends in surveys carried out by several Contracting Parties and aims to promote the sustainable exploitation of the resource while removing the year-to-year uncertainty from the fishery.

NAFO continues the implementation of modernizing its information and data sharing platform by developing a new secure Inspector’s website and digitizing all NAFO archives and documents.

A NAFO Internship program has been established to give an opportunity for early-career individuals or students from NAFO members countries to gain experience with an international organisation.

NAFO is an international intergovernmental fisheries science and management body that manages the fishery in the international portion of the Northwest Atlantic.

The 33rd Annual Meeting was held during 19-23 September 2011 at the Westin Hotel Nova Scotian, Halifax, NS, Canada and was attended by 180 delegates from all 12 Contracting Parties – Canada, Cuba, Denmark (in respect of Faroe Islands and Greenland), European Union, France (in respect of St. Pierre et Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Russian Federation, Ukraine and United States of America.

The three bodies of NAFO, General Council (chaired by Terje Lobach, Norway), Fisheries Commission (chaired by Kate Sanderson, Denmark (in respect of Faroe Islands and Greenland) and Scientific Council (chaired by Ricardo Alpoim, EU-Portugal) and their subsidiary bodies met over the course of week to deliberate on management measures and scientific assessment regarding the international fisheries of the Northwest Atlantic. The scientific advice was presented.

The meeting was also attended by observers from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), and Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), the Sierra Club of Canada (SCC) and Pew Environment Group.

The NAFO Performance Review Panel was established with external and internal experts. The external panel members were experts in the fields of fisheries management (Dr. Fábio Hazin, Brazil), fisheries science (Prof. Denzil Miller, Australia), and the law of the sea (Mr. Milton Haughton, Belize).

The internal experts were nominated by NAFO Contracted Parties as follows: Canada (James Baird), Denmark (in respect of Faroe Islands and Greenland) (Einar Lemche), the European Union (John Spencer) and the Russian Federation (Olga Sedykh). In addition, the Chair of STACTIC (Gene Martin, USA) acted as an information resource for the Panel.

The panel assessed the performance of NAFO against the objectives set out in the NAFO Convention and other relevant international legal instruments addressing the conservation and management of marine living resources and made recommendations on how NAFO can further improve.

Positive outcomes were noted by the panel. Some recommendations made by the panel were addressed during the meeting and an internal working group has been established by NAFO to develop plans of action necessary for the implementation of the other recommendations of the panel.

Contracting parties that had not yet ratified the amended NAFO Convention were encouraged to continue their efforts to do so in their respective governments.

The Fisheries Commission agreed on management measures for the 20 fish, shrimp and invertebrate stocks managed by NAFO.

The scientific advice was elaborated at meetings held since the last annual meeting. The Scientific Council fully assessed the status of ten stocks and monitored the status of other fish stocks.

Ongoing growth of some stocks poses challenges to managers and scientists, with the continuing recovery of cod on the Flemish Cap being reflected in declines in species on which cod prey, such as redfish and shrimps.

Other stocks continue on their long road to recovery, for example although American plaice remain under moratorium, they show promising signs for the future, with indications of improved recruitment being seen in the surveys.

Scientific advice was also provided to coastal states based on their specific requests. Moratoria are continued for eight NAFO stocks and TACs have been reduced for five stocks. Amendments to the NAFO Conservation and Enforcement Measures were reviewed to enhance organisation and structure and clarify existing NAFO Measures.

Conservation Plans and Rebuilding Strategies (CPRS) for important resources within the NAFO Convention Area, including cod in Div. 3NO and American plaice in Div. 3LNO were confirmed in 2011.

The plans set out objectives, indentify reference points, define re-opening criteria and establish Harvest Control Rules. In 2012 witch flounder in Div. 3NO will be added.

Greenland halibut in SA 2+3 will continue to be managed using a management strategy that takes into account trends in survey abundance to determine the direction and size in any quota change. Changes are constrained to 5% per year to ensure stability in the fishery.

The closures of Orphan Knoll, Corner Seamounts, Newfoundland Seamounts, New England Seamounts and Fogo Seamounts (1 and 2), the large coral protection zone in Div. 3O and the eleven areas of higher sponge and coral concentrations near the Flemish Cap and the Flemish Pass will remain closed until 2014.

One zone on the Flemish Cap has been expanded. The closed areas will be reviewed in 2014 based on the best available scientific information by the Fisheries Commission. NAFO will take into account the guidance provided by the FAO in the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and any other internationally agreed standards, as appropriate.

NAFO continues to a
ddress the protection of VMEs from significant adverse impacts of bottom fishing. In order to provide the best basis for deciding on appropriate measures to protect VMEs, the NAFO Scientific Council continues its work to improve knowledge on marine ecosystem in the Northwest Atlantic.

Commitment by EU and Canada remains for the NEREIDA programme. Further processing of specimens and samples and data analyses are ongoing.

The Fisheries Commission conducts an annual compliance review and this year noted that the same level of inspections is taking place but there are fewer infringements than in the past. Improvements to the analysis of compliance made this report more comprehensive.

NAFO is in the process of developing a data sharing platform for NAFO Fishery Inspectors to access fisheries data in a centralized location on the NAFO Website. The vessel monitoring system continues to provide real-time fisheries information.

The NAFO Secretariat completed a project aimed at digitizing all NAFO meeting documentation and publications back to 1979. The majority of this material is now available on the NAFO web-pages. This project will continue with the digitization of all ICNAF’s documentation (NAFO’s predecessor).

Elections for most of the bodies were held this year. The General Council Chair will be Veronika Veits (EU). The Fisheries Commission Chair will be Sylvie Lapointe (Canada). For Scientific Council the Chair will be Carsten Hvingel (Norway); Chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries Science (STACFIS) will be Jean-Claude Mahé (EU-France); Chair of the Standing Committee on Publications (STACPUB) remains Margaret Treble (Canada); Chair of the Standing Committee on Research Coordination (STACREC) and Vice-Chair of Scientific Council will be Don Stansbury (Canada); and Chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries Environment (STACFEN) remains Gary Maillet (Canada).

The 34th Annual Meeting will be held in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation 17-21 September 2012.