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Near impossible…but not in Newfoundland!

As I started to draft this blog I found myself feeling very similar to the way I felt almost three years ago when I was hired by WWF. Excited, yet at the same time a little overwhelmed.

Back then, I was tasked with coordinating the first Fisheries Improvement Project in Canada on the Atlantic cod stock located in the southern waters off the coast of Newfoundland. To us in the fish biz, it’s known simply as the 3Ps cod stock.

At that time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was diving head-first into a process with a group of other liked-minded partners that had one goal: rebuilding a depleted cod stock and moving it towards the holy grail of seafood sustainability, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

A near impossible feat some would say…

…but not in Newfoundland!

Janice Ryan in a fisheries advisor with WWF Canada in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Janice Ryan is a fisheries advisor with WWF Canada in St. John’s, Newfoundland. © Janice Ryan / WWF

Since starting the FIP in 2011, we’ve witnessed progressively good stock assessments. Looking ahead, the latest assessment in 2013 continues this trend with a positive trajectory forecasted for the next 3 years. So…excellent timing for the MSC’s assessment of this growing Atlantic Canadian cod stock.

In early March 2014, close to the end of the FIP’s 3-year timeline, Icewater Seafoods and Ocean Choice International took the next step to securing the long term sustainability of this Atlantic cod stock by entering it into the MSC certification process.

To say I am elated, over-joyed or excited is a gross understatement. In the 15 years I’ve worked in Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishery sector this is my happiest and proudest moment.

We simply could not have accomplished this without the participation of all the industry players and their efforts to help the fishery rebuild. The FIP was the first sustainable fisheries initiative that included every sector of the fishing industry, which was further enhanced by other folks along the way who believed that working together would lead to a big impact on the water.

Icewater Seafoods started the ball rolling, and Ocean Choice International, the Fish Food and Allied Workers Union, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Fisheries and Oceans Canada came together to form the core FIP client group. It was this group that helped steer the process and implement an arduous FIP action plan to secure our success.

Tremendous support also came from High Liner Foods and the Sustainable Fisheries Fund who believed in our goal. Retailers Loblaw and Marks & Spencer also played a part, and were always there to meet with us, or help push our cause in the places we needed to make things happen.

Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in an aquarium setting, Canada. © J. D. Taylor / WWF-Canada

Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) Canada. © J. D. Taylor / WWF-Canada

And in the true spirit of collaboration, the Marine Institute’s Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research and the MSC provided top notch advice and expertise during the development and implementation of the FIP action plan.

And that’s not to mention the tremendous support we received from WWF UK, WWF US and our very own Oceans team in Atlantic Canada.

The success we’ve had rebuilding the 3Ps cod stock could act as a blueprint in efforts to restore other depleted fish stocks. But more importantly, the MSC certification of the 3Ps Atlantic cod fishery will open doors to new markets, which will provide viable economic opportunities that will benefit the coastal communities of my home province.

Yep….to say I’m a happy Panda is indeed an understatement!

Newfoundland (c) Janice Ryan/WWF-Canada

Fishing boats moored in Bay de Verde, Newfoundland. © Janice Ryan / WWF

Listen to Janice Ryan talk about the 3Ps cod MSC Assessment on CBC’s Fisheries Broadcast here.