A new Fisheries Improvement Project for Newfoundland cod | WWF-Canada
Various sizes of commercial fishing boats tied up at the wharf in the Small Boat Basin in St. ... 
© Alyssa Bistonath / WWF-Canada

A new Fishery Improvement Project for Newfoundland cod

An initiative to restore historic cod stocks in the Northwest Atlantic
In the spring of 2015, WWF-Canada launched a new Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) in Atlantic Canada in partnership with harvesters. The project aims to bring the historic cod fishery off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador - known as the northern cod stock or its technical designation 2J3KL - that’s collapsed and been under a fishing moratorium since 1992 back to a healthy level – for the benefits and economic well-being of communities and eventual commercial viability.

The FIP is a multi-step, multi-stakeholder initiative aiming to improve fishing practices and management to help the northern cod fishery rebuild and meet or exceed the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable fisheries.

Recapturing a history of abundance

For hundreds of years, the waters around Newfoundland were alive with cod. Canada’s cod stocks were legendary around the world, and cod was a mainstay of the local economy.
In the 1990s all that changed. After years of overfishing, cod stocks on the Northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador drastically declined, and in 1992 a moratorium was imposed, effectively putting an end to commercial cod harvesting in that area. Over 30,000 jobs were lost, and coastal communities were devastated. It was the single largest lay-off in North America during the 20th century.
For about 25 years, the future of this once abundant cod stock was grim. However in 2006, scientists began to witness a slow and steady trend in stock growth in some areas.
To ensure this recovery continues and is scientifically monitored, WWF and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-UNIFOR) representing 9,000 fish harvesters and processing workers in the fishing industry, agreed on April 28, 2015 to launch a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) to enhance rebuilding efforts, and help restore this iconic fishery for the benefit of nature and people alike.

A five-year process

The goal of this Fishery Improvement Project is to help the fishery make the environmental and management changes necessary that allow it to enter a full assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable fisheries.

Where is the fishery?

Stock area of northern (2J3KL) cod 
© Fisheries and Oceans Canada
The fishery is located off the Northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, in an area which falls within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) regulatory area 2J3KL.

Who is participating?

The FIP is being led by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-UNIFOR) and WWF. Participating members include the Seafood Producers Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPONL) and Fogo Island Co-Op and prospective retail partners and buyers.
  • The Association of Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPONL) is a not-for-profit corporation which represents the interests of seafood producers generally in the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador.
  • The Fogo Island Co-op operates five seafood processing plants and has pioneered quality initiatives in the industry. The Co-op exports crab and groundfish to the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, Sweden, Germany and Canada.