Friday, July 15, 2011

Is the Newfoundland Grand Bank shrimp fishery sustainable?

The large boat northern shrimp Pandalus borealis fisheries off the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada) have just received MSC eco-certification as sustainable.  Small boat fisheries on the same stocks were certified sustainable by MSC in 2009 as the “inshore fishery on Canadian northern prawn”. 

The shrimp fishery on the Grand Bank of Newfoundland (NAFO Divisions 3LNO, Canadian Shrimp Fishing Area 7) was considered separately in the certification process because it is a straddling stock that extends beyond the 200nm EEZ and is therefore managed by an RFMO, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO).

Given the serial depletion of most Grand Bank fisheries through rampant overfishing by Spain, Portugal, Canada and other nations over the last 60 years, one would think that sustainable management of the shrimp fishery by NAFO would be a high priority and that passing MSE certification would be a walk in the park.

Well, it was a walk in the park.  Moody International Marine Ltd., the for-profit consulting company that did the assessment under contract to the fishing industry, awarded the fishery scores of 84.4% for Principle 1 (Sustainability of Exploited Stock), 84% for Principle 2 (Maintenance of Ecosystem) and 81.6% for Principle 3 (Effective Management System). 

There were some low scores within these overall averages that led to conditions being placed on the sustainability determination.  The fishery is certified and products can carry the blue MSC logo, but to ensure ongoing certification MSC requires some progress to be demonstrated in annual audits by Moody towards improving these areas.

So where were some of the low scores?  Harvest control rules and tools – 70%.  Turns out there aren’t any.  Neither are there any exploitation targets or limits.  Fishery specific objectives (management objectives) – 60%.  Again, there aren’t any.

“Decision making processes” got a score of 80% and “Compliance and enforcement” got 90%. This is inconsistent with reality.

Scientific advice on a sustainable TAC for 2009 was 25kt.  NAFO went against the scientific advice and awarded a TAC of 30kt.  Denmark in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland did not agree to their share of the TAC and therefore set their own quota in excess of what they were allocated.  This is allowed under the NAFO Objection Clause.

Scientific advice for 2010 was that the current exploitation rate of 14% may be too high and scientists urged caution in the exploitation of the stock because it was declining.  They advised that exploitation rates should not be raised, but kept below recent levels.  Given that the stock was declining this would require a reduction in the TAC but NAFO decided to keep the TAC at 30kt.  Again the scientific advice was ignored.  Again Denmark in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland set their own quota in excess of their allocation.

Scientific advice for 2011 was that TAC options at 14% exploitation rate or higher would be associated with a relatively high risk of continued stock decline.  A 14% exploitation rate corresponded to a TAC of  17kt.  NAFO set the TAC for 2011 at 19.2kt.  Again the scientific advice was ignored.

The biomass of shrimp halved between 2007 and 2009.  This decline is expected to continue unless NAFO reduces the TAC in accordance with the scientific advice.  It doesn’t look like this is going to happen before it is too late…again.

How can this fishery be considered sustainable?  

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