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Newfoundland cod achieves sustainability milestone. Here’s how.

A Newfoundland cod fishery has for the first time been certified sustainable, a significant achievement that demonstrates how a science-based approach to managing fish populations and fisheries delivers conservation success.

© Greg Locke

A southern Newfoundland cod fishery has gained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, demonstrating that it is possible for struggling fish stocks to recover and reach sustainability benchmarks that benefit both nature and communities. © Greg Locke

After more than five years of conservation efforts by WWF-Canada, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) announced on March 22, 2016, that the cod population off the southern coast of Newfoundland had sufficiently grown and that rebuilding measures had been implemented so cod could be sustainably harvested.

The certification is a huge step in WWF-Canada’s efforts to help Newfoundland’s cod populations recover and create sustainable fisheries for the prosperity of local communities. It’s a win for nature and a win for people.

The MSC certification for Newfoundland southern cod is the successful conclusion of a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) that WWF-Canada launched in 2011. The FIP was designed to increase the health of the southern Newfoundland cod population and improve management to make MSC certification possible. It was a collaborative project that included partners from industry, governments and NGOs.

The town of Bay de Verde, Newfoundland and Labrador. © Greg Locke

The town of Bay de Verde, Newfoundland and Labrador. © Greg Locke

What MSC certification means

  • Certification means the fish population and the fishery will be scrutinized more carefully and held to an independent global fisheries standard.
  • To achieve MSC Fisheries Standard certification, 28 performance indicators must be met to uphold three principles:
  1. The fish population must be healthy with practices and limits in place to ensure that fishing can continue indefinitely without putting the fish population in jeopardy.
  2. Fishing practices must minimize ecosystem impacts.
  3. Fisheries must have sustainable management practices in place and be responsive to changing circumstances.
  • Certified fisheries are reviewed annually and recertified every five years.
  • The certification standard is regularly updated.
  • Fisheries that fail to meet conditions for continuous improvement have their certification revoked.
The MSC certification will help Newfoundland’s cod populations recover. © Bettina Saier

The MSC certification will help Newfoundland’s cod populations recover and create sustainable fisheries for the prosperity of local communities. © Bettina Saier

About the newly certified sustainable fishery

  • The new sustainable certification applies to a specific population of cod caught in a precise area off the southern coast of Newfoundland known as 3Ps, its Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization subdivision name.
  • The 3Ps southern Newfoundland cod fishery is not included in the dramatic fishing moratorium in place since 1992 due to the northern Newfoundland cod population collapse.
  • A moratorium was imposed on 3Ps in 1993, and lifted in 1997. Fishing has continued since then, but without sustainable certification until now.

About the Marine Stewardship Council

  • The MSC is the only wild-capture fisheries certification program that meets the best-practice requirements set by both the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards.
  • Its sustainability standards were developed through consultation with scientists, conservationists, the fishing industry and other experts and stakeholders.

Dr. Saier holds a PhD in marine biology and is the vice-president of oceans conservation at WWF-Canada.


  • http://www.wolfnowl.com/ Mike Nelson Pedde

    This is fantastic news, and I must admit I love the idea of cod pot fishng as opposed to longlining, nets or (ugh) bottom trawls. If the weather’s bad and the boats can’t go out the fish are kept alive and smaller fish can easily be returned to the sea.

    I’m not a fisherman (biologist type person) so there are likely HUGE numbers of things about fishing I don’t know, but the idea at least makes sense to me, as does a Community Supported Fishery (like this one in NS: http://offthehookcsf.ca

    Mike.