A report by the Canadian Advisory Panel on the Sustainable Management of Straddling Fish Stocks in the Northwest Atlantic has called for the dismantling of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO).

NAFO is an organization that includes Canada, the United States and European countries that have fishing fleets. It is mandated to protect North Atlantic fisheries, with special focus on the Grand Banks.

The panel’s report, released in September, is entitled, “Breaking New Ground: An Action Plan for Rebuilding the Grand Banks Fisheries.”

The report recommended, “The Government of Canada should, as an immediate priority, act to replace the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) with a new Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) that incorporates the modern approaches to, and principles of, sustainable ecosystem management contained in UNFA [United Nations Fish Agreement] and the array of other international agreements, codes and declarations that have emerged in recent years.”

The report continued, “The new arrangement should explicitly recognize the special interest of coastal states in the sustainable management of stocks, while protecting existing shares of rebuilt stocks for current members of NAFO. The absence of an objection procedure, combined with compulsory dispute resolution and enhanced enforcement powers, will help to make this new RFMO the model for managing the world’s straddling stocks and fishery resources in a sustainable manner. The creation of a new regional fisheries management organization is preferable to and could achieve the same benefits as, a custodial management approach.”

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish Food and Allied Workers in Newfoundland, who has long been critical of NAFO, gave his support to “the main recommendation” of the report.

On his way to a NAFO meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, at press time, McCurdy said, “It’s time for real enforcement of the regulations. We’ll see what comes out of this meeting, but I believe the only way we’re going to get the kind of enforcement we need is for Canada to extend its jurisdiction out over the entire area.”

“NAFO has been a flop,” he said. “Even after the collapse of most NAFO-managed groundfish stocks in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the turbot war in 1995, NAFO still failed miserably in the management of the turbot resource and squandered a great resource opportunity.”

He also supports the panel’s recommendation that the federal government maintain its current level of surveillance and enforcement outside Canada’s 200-mile limit.