Canada Northern cod (2J3KL) - handline/gillnet/longline

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 Northern cod, one of the world’s largest and most iconic fisheries, was instrumental in the development of the New World by Europeans in Canada. Excessive fishing combined with ecosystem change led to the collapse of cod in the 1990s, resulted in the largest lay-off in North America with 30,000 lost jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador. The socio-cultural fabric of the province was shaped by this 500 year old fishery, the loss of livelihood resulted in the alteration of a people’s way of life. From the species perspective the decline and subsequent collapse of the Northern cod stock represents one of the world’s worst ecological disasters.

Over the past 25 years, the only northern cod pulled from our waters has been caught by other directed fisheries as bycatch; by an in-shore cod stewardship fishery; by scientific fishing sets and in recreational fishing activity. However, there is reason for optimism around the future of a commercial fishery. Recent biomass indicators show significant improvement in stock biomass– though still well below biomass limit for direct commercial fishing–and positive stock indicators, such as age profile. Environmental conditions are also generally positive for the stock.


In April 2015, WWF-Canada embarked on a fishery improvement project (FIP) to bring back Newfoundland and Labrador’s northern cod stock, signing a landmark agreement with the largest private-sector union in the province, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) Union. Formalizing our partnership with the FFAW, which represents harvesters, was the first major step in launching a five-year initiative to improve the sustainability of the only existing northern cod fishery—a small-scale, stewardship fishery with around 9,600  metric tonnes of annual landings—so that it may enter into the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process. WWF-Canada and the FFAW also secured support for the FIP from the Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador, Fogo Island Co-op and the NL- Groundfish Industry Development Council.

The FIP process formally commenced in November 2015 with a MSC pre-assessment that identified the issues that needed to be addressed to improve the sustainability of the stock. A stakeholder meeting that included participants from all sectors of the industry was held in September 2016 to help develop a FIP action plan to tackle the problems in the fishery. The Action plan was launched publicly in December 2016 that includes the necessary actions to address the issues of concerns in the fishery, responsible parties and timelines. In 2017 we began the implementation of the activities identified in the Action Plan to address the issues and concerns that were identified in the pre-assessment. Our goal is to move the current fishery towards a sustainable viable full scale commercial fishery that will benefit the people and communities that depend on it to thrive.


FIP Description 

 Northern cod, one of the world’s largest and most iconic fisheries, was instrumental in the development of the New World by Europeans in Canada.

FIP Objective(s) 

The main objectives of the 2J3KL cod stewardship fishery area as follows:

1. By December 2025 the historic and now depleted northern cod stock will be at sustainable levels, meeting the MSC or equivalent standard for global seafood sustainability.

2.Once the stock has reached sustainable levels in 2025 there will be long-term economic benefits acheived for harvesters and local communities which are struggling with declining shrimp and crab resources.

3. The FIP will achieve a high level of sustainability necessary for the fisheries – and the communities and the people that depend on them – to thrive by 2025.

FIP Type 
FIP Stage 
Stage 4: Improvements in Fishing Practices or Fishery Management
Start and Projected End Dates
December 2016
December 2025
There have been considerable improvements both the biology and management of this iconic fishery. The spawning stock biomass (SSB) continues to increase and is currently estimated to be above 400,000 t, which is a major improvement from 10,000t SSB 25 years ago. Although there has been considerable progress in the growth of the stock, there remain outstanding items in our Fishery Improvement Project Action Plan related to the Limit Reference Point (LRP). At the 2019 regional peer review process to evaluate the LRP, reviewers indicated that additional information on the productivity of the stock between roughly 400-800,000 t would help resolve LRP questions as those levels of SSB correspond to the gap in the stock-recruit relationship. Further, DFO Science indicated that further information on stock productivity in this range could be gathered through refinement of the Extended Northern Cod Model (1962-2018). As many of the outstanding items our Action Plan relate to the LRP, additional time is required to have DFO Science complete the required work on the LRP. We also note that Association of Seafood Producers/Atlantic Groundfish Council FIP has extended the time period for their Fishery Improvement Project for the same stock until 2025. Given that both FIPs are in relation to the same stock, we request a similar extension.
Next Progress Report Due 
Monday, February 28, 2022
Common Name 
Atlantic Cod
Scientific Name
Gadus morhua
Gear Type 
Bottom Gillnet
Bottom Longline
FAO Major Fishing Area
Area 21 (Atlantic, Northwest)
Exclusive Economic Zones
Geographic Scope 
Newfoundland and Labrador
Regional Fisheries Management Organization
Estimated Total FIP Landings 
13,999 metric tons
Estimated Total Fishery Landings 
13,999 metric tons
Landings Date 
March 2020

FIP at a Glance

7% 7% 86%
December 01, 2016
7% 14% 79%
Progress Rating

A - Advanced Progress
Reserved for comprehensive FIPs that have a Stage 4 or 5 result within the past 12 months.

B - Good Progress
A FIP that has achieved a Stage 4 or 5 in more than 12 months AND Stage 3 activity in the last year; OR a basic FIP that has achieved Stage 4 or 5 achievements within the past 12 months.

C - Some Recent Progress
A FIP that has achieved a Stage 4 or 5 result in more than 12 (but less than 24) months but has not generated a Stage 3 result within the past 12 months OR a FIP younger than a year that has never achieved a Stage 4 or 5 result but has completed a Stage 3 activity.

D - Some Past Progress
A FIP for which the most recent publicly reported Stage 4 or 5 result is more than 24 (but less than 30) months.

E - Negligible Progress
A FIP older than a year that has not reported a Stage 4 or 5 result in more than 30 month (but less than 36) months; OR a FIP younger than 1 year that has not reported a Stage 3 activity.

The ratings are currently derived by SFP from publicly available data on FIP websites, including, and are determined using the following methodology: View PDF
A Advanced Progress
Actions Complete

This pie chart represents completed environmental actions. Non-completed environmental actions may contain completed sub-tasks that are not illustrated here. For more information on environmental action progress visit the Actions Progress tab.

  • Complete
  • Incomplete
Next Update Due FisheryProgress requires a FIP to provide update reports every six months, and two missed reports will render the FIP inactive. If a report is overdue, this date will appear red.
Feb 2022
Target End Date
Dec 2025
Additional Impacts:

FIP Leads

Organization Name 
Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union/UNIFOR
Organization Type 
Primary Contact 
Dwan Street
FIP Identification Number The FIP Identification Number is automatically generated by FisheryProgress when a FIP profile is created. While the number itself is not meaningful, they are used by NGOs, academia, and industry to refer to FIPs in a consistent way.