Atlantic Commercial Fishing
The Grand Banks, a group of underwater
plateaus off the coast of Newfoundland, is home to one of the richest fishing
grounds in the world. Since the late 15th century, fishermen have flocked
to its abundant waters. It seems incomprehensible that these waters, thick with
fish, could ever be depleted of their stock. Yet, in 1992, due to massive
overfishing, the Northern Cod population was nearly wiped out completely and
approximately 30,000 Newfoundlanders lost their jobs (Canadian Encyclopedia,
2013, WWF 2014).The collapse of the Grand Banks fish stocks, an environmental
catastrophe, was a very loud wake-up call to the importance of regulating a
sustainable Atlantic commercial fishing industry.
Canada is a member of a variety of
regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) whose job it is to manage,
conserve and protect fish stocks within their area of jurisdiction, using a
science-based approach. Two RFMOs that oversee Atlantic commercial fishing are
the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and
the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). These organizations
operate under the rules of international law, using science-based management to
ensure the sustainability of fishing practices (Fisheries and Oceans Canada,
The International Seafood
Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a partnership of scientists, the tuna
industry and the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), a leader in conservation. The ISSF
focuses on comprehensive science-based initiatives, promoting a long-term
conservation plan and the sustainability of tuna stocks while protecting ocean
ecosystems as a whole. The ISSF gathers scientifically analysed data and
regularly releases updated reports on the status of the fish stocks. ISSF
- Eliminating overfishing by pressuring
RFMOs to adopt conservation strategies.
- Improving stock assessments: involving
scientists to determine how tuna stocks are best assessed.
- Pushing for improvements in fishing
practices, researching techniques to avoid bycatch (catching unintended species
of fish) while educating fishers through continual instruction and vigilance.
- Operating a database of Unique Vessel
Identifiers (UVIs) to prevent fishers from changing their names to hide
illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) behaviour that leads to gross
overfishing (ISSF, 2012).
Clover Leaf Seafoods is a founding
member of the ISSF and is committed to transparency and compliance with ISSF
resolutions. As such, they are audited by an outside law firm, which annually evaluates
and reports on the compliance of companies in seventeen areas. Audit points
include confirmation that no tuna are IUU, no large-scale drift nets are used,
and ensuring the best practices are employed by purse seiners (a method of
fishing using FADs or fish aggregating devices). Clover Leaf was found
compliant on all seventeen points.
Clover Leaf is also committed to
sustainability in areas other than fishing, by reducing packaging and setting
targets for reducing energy, water usage and waste (Clover Leaf, 2014).
Responsibility for the mismanagement of
Atlantic cod stocks in the nineties should be borne by government regulators,
fishers, seafood companies and consumers alike. It is now evident that all
these groups must work together to support a sustainable Atlantic commercial
fishing industry, while also protecting our oceans’ delicate ecosystems.
Lessons have been learned and progress has been made, but there is much more to