DFO vessel troubles frustrate Atlantic Canada fishing industry

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DFO vessel troubles frustrate Atlantic Canada’s fishing industry

Canadian Coast Guard vessel CCGS Alfred Needler is due to retire at the end of the year after 40 years of service.

Atlantic Canada's fishing industry is frustrated. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) continues to fail to conduct scientific stock assessments on the east coast.

DFO has missed many surveys as it struggles to commission new offshore fisheries science vessels and aging vessels near retirement.

Restrictions on the navigation imposed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic accentuated the problem, as did the breakdowns of old vessels and the replacement of necessary parts on the two new vessels stationed on the east coast.

The CCGS Jacques Cartier sits at the wharf of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, in Darmouth in 2021.

DFO's repeated failures to complete the scientific investigation component of its mandate are negatively impacting the ability to monitor and understand the impacts of climate change, develop effective recovery plans for struggling fish stocks, and ensure that sustainable management of the oceans and fisheries can benefit all Canadians,” said Kris Vascotto, executive director of the Atlantic Groundfish Council, which represents a major seafood company.


Scientific surveys are used to assess the health of major fish stocks and are essential in determining commercial fishing quotas worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Atlantic Canada.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans missed most of the spring survey off Newfoundland this year and eastern Nova Scotia got no coverage during the 2022 summer survey.

< p class="e-p">The consequences are enormous. We want to know what's going on. We need the data, said Carey Bonnell, vice president and sustainability and engagement at Ocean Choice International, a seafood company in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

He mentioned that DFO has told him that the fall science survey off Newfoundland will be greatly reduced for a third year in a row. He understands there will be little data in 2023 to aid in science and stock assessment.

DFO missed most of the spring survey off of Newfoundland this year and eastern Nova Scotia had no coverage during the 2022 summer survey.

DFO did not respond to written questions that were submitted at the end of October regarding surveys.

Canada has spent $778 million on three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels to conduct fisheries surveys as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

The new Canadian Coast Guard vessel John Cabot.

Two are stationed on the east coast: the CCGS Jacques Cartier, based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and the CCGS John Cabot, in St. John's.

They will replace the CCGS Alfred 40-year-old Needler at the end of the year and the 34-year-old CCGS Teleost in March 2023.

MPs also ask questions.

Various witnesses who have appeared here and at meetings have told me that DFO's stock assessments do not follow the mandate of the department, asked the Liberal MP from Île-du- Prince Edward Island, Robert Morrissey, to a DFO representative at a parliamentary fisheries committee on October 7.

Much has been forgotten over the past few years. Is that correct or not?

Arran McPherson, assistant deputy minister of science at DFO, said the department is fully committed to carrying out the surveys with his Coast Guard colleagues.

Based on a report by Paul Withers, CBC

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