Northern cod stock assessments to be stepped up, starting in 2018

Federal scientists will step up their study of the northern cod stock, amid pressure to find out more about the "iconic resource" as other species decline.

In an announcement Wednesday, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it will begin full scientific stock assessments in the winter of 2018.

The assessments will continue for five years, with an annual cost of $2.75 million, in an effort to determine if and when the stock can sustain a commercial fishery.

While northern cod stocks have been growing since the mid-2000s, the department said recently that numbers are still in the lower half of the "critical zone."

Despite the caution, Newfoundland and Labrador politicians have been talking about the return of the cod fishery as a species that will help support the industry while shrimp and crab quotas are slashed.

In March, the House of Commons standing committee on fisheries chastised DFO for not having a rebuilding plan nearly 25 years after the start of the cod moratorium.

The department said the annual assessments will "better inform management decisions, which could ultimately benefit fishers and communities who use this iconic resource." 

DFO recognizes the "cultural and economic importance" of the stock to this province, it said in a release, adding that fish harvesters will be consulted and the assessments made public.