Exceeding turbot quota won’t harm fishery: Kovic

But conservation still top priority in northern waters


The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board isn’t worried that Nunavut is exceeding the recommended quota for turbot in the mostnortherly section of Davis Strait.

Ben Kovic, the NWMB’s chair, said conservation is still a top priority for his board, even though Nunavut’s quota exceeds the level recommended by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization’s scientific committee.

The total allowable catch recommended by NAFO for turbot caught in the northern waters between Baffin Island and Greenland is 8,000 metric tonnes – an amount jointly claimed and fished by Canada and Greenland.

Last month, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Nunavut could fish an additional 400 metric tonnes of turbot in the waters between Baffin Island and Greenland in the zone known as “1-0A.”

Kovic said the NWMB supported an application from the Baffin Fisheries Coalition for more turbot because this year Greenland wouldn’t take in more than 1,300 metric tonnes of turbot from that zone.

“It was a recommendation based on what Greenland was going to fish,” Kovic said.

Because it’s still an experimental fishing zone, there’s no set quota in 1-OA, and there’s no official agreement between Canada and Greenland on how to divvy up its turbot stock, although this year Canada imposed a quota of 4,000 metric tonnes on its catch.

Greenland generally establishes its own quotas, which sometimes even surpass the total amounts recommended by NAFO, so that its fishing trawlers remain busy and profitable. Conservation, said Kovic, is the least of their concerns.

“Greenland is a poor manager,” Kovic said.

The DFO agrees that giving extra turbot to Nunavut won’t hurt the healthy fish stock in the Davis Strait.

Canada doesn’t need to skimp, said Brian Lester, the groundfish advisor for the DFO in Ottawa, because there is more than enough turbot to go around.

“Is 100 tonnes or 200 tonnes a big demand on a 180,000 metric tonne biomass? It’s not like 100 tonnes is going to make a big difference at the end of the day,” Lester said.

Greenlandic trawlers already take a large portion of northern turbot. They fish up to 16,000 metric tonnes from the inshore fishery along the northwestern coastal fiords of Greenland.

Canada views these turbot as belonging to the same stock as those in the 1-0A zone.

Lester said Canada’s quotas in that zone help Greenland.

“By protecting the offshore stocks, we’re preserving their inshore fishery,” Lester said.

Before the decision to increase Nunavut’s quota was made, one Canadian trawler, fishing for Nunavut, had already used up its allocation.

Even with the additional quota of 400 metric tonnes, Lester, like Kovic, doubts Canada’s total catch will go much over its 4,000 metric tonne quota.

In the turbot-rich waters north of the 70th parallel, Nunavut had initially asked for 6,000 metric tonnes. Nunavik has also been lobbying for a larger share of this stocks.

More will be known about the distribution and numbers of this northern turbot after a new scientific survey is completed. This was scheduled for 2003, but has had to be postponed until next year.

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