DFO insists Nunavut turbot stocks are still healthy
Area manager won’t comment on small fish protocol violations
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans doesn’t have much to say about allegations made recently by the Arctic Fisheries Alliance that bottom trawling vessels are violating the department’s 15-per-cent small fish protocol for the Nunavut turbot fishery.
But Larry Dow, DFO’s area director for the Eastern Arctic, said Jan. 16 that his department believes the stock is healthy.
“The stock indicator said that the stock is healthy and the trends are stable, a mix of both mobile gear and fixed gear types have proven effective in management of the fishery,” he said.
“It is very sustainable,” Dow said, but added that he could not say whether or not the stock is growing.
“That’s why we do the research every year, to find out where the stock is going,” he said.
The department’s annual surveys are stock assessments that “monitor small fish closely” in area 0A one year and area 0B the next.
“It’s a science project, [we’ll] go out there and do some trawling and it’s a project that’s done every year and so far the results show that the stock is very sustainable and the total allowable catch is very conservative,” he said.
However, Dow could not indicate exactly how DFO’s research is carried out each year.
The trawling Dow referred to is bottom-trawling.
“They trawl where the turbot are, and turbot are bottom fish,” he said.
The DFO will react as needed “to ensure the sustainability of the resource.”
Backed by research prepared by Anna Olafsdottir of Memorial University, the AFA alleged that the DFO is not enforcing its own guidelines and ignored evidence that trawling vessels are bringing in catches that exceed the department’s 15 per cent limit
But Dow said he couldn’t comment on how, or if, the small fish protocol is enforced.
But the  integrated fisheries management plan for Nunavut turbot, is still in place and things are going well, he said.
Dow said the department is “pretty confident in the data” that it obtains each year, when asked if there is a lack of knowledge about Nunavut’s turbot.
“The stocks will be managed the same way they are now. DFO does research out there and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board will assess the information and give recommendations of the quotas to the DFO,” Dow said.
The DFO is doing a good job so far, with its co-management partners, in managing the fishery, he said.
Dow didn’t have any information about the relative sizes of fish being caught.
“Specifics I do not have,” he said.