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Investment in fisheries science yielding positive result

The RV Celtic Explorer was chartered by MI to use in research activities led by the CFER.


The Marine Institute's Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) has been effectively addressing the need for increased capacity in fisheries science in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One year ago, on the anniversary of the northern cod moratorium, the provincial government announced an allocation of $14 million for fisheries science and applied fisheries research. Of this funding, $11.75 million was used to create the centre at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

"Under the direction of Dr. George Rose, the centre has increased fisheries science research capacity in Newfoundland and Labrador for groundfish, finfish, pelagics and shellfish through enhanced technology such as acoustics surveys and satellite tagging," said Clyde Jackman, minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. "The centre is meeting the need for more information and scientific support for sustainable and precautionary fisheries management and is also providing opportunities for fisheries scientists to work in our province."

The major event for the centre has been the charter of the RV Celtic Explorer, which left Cork, Ireland, to depart for Newfoundland and Labrador on Jan. 29. The vessel docked in St. John's harbour before moving on to conduct a research survey. The main goal was to locate and acoustically survey Atlantic cod within Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization areas 2J3KL, 3Ps and 3NO.

Due to very poor weather conditions, the survey plan was modified. However, some areas, including Smith Sound in Trinity Bay, were surveyed in detail. Substantial oceanographic information collected during the survey indicated a significant increase in water temperatures in the Hawke Channel region off Labrador. The impact of this increase in temperature will be the focus of future work in the area.

"The Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research is heavily engaged in research related to the most pressing fisheries issues of the day in our province, particularly the rebuilding of groundfish stocks," said Glenn Blackwood, executive director, Marine Institute. "Dr. Rose, CFER's scientific director, and Tom Brown, the administrative director, are building a team of researchers, technicians and graduate students capable of carrying out the goals of the Marine Institute's newest centre. I am confident this team will make a lasting contribution to fisheries research in our province."

To date, CFER has filled 10 positions and 11 graduate students are working on fisheries science research projects. It has a number of projects planned for the next year, including surveys and ecosystem-based research on groundfish, pelagics and shrimp, and will work closely with two major Canadian fisheries networks. Dr. Rose will also contribute to and edit a textbook on cod in collaboration with scientists from the U.S., the U.K., Norway and Iceland.
Beginning in 2012, the centre plans to study interactions between cod, crab and shrimp. The centre is also planning further charters of the RV Celtic Explorer and researching the feasibility of investing in a provincial fisheries science research vessel.

CFER is currently in the process of creating an advisory committee that will meet several times a year, helping to set research priorities and plans. The committee will consist of members from the Newfoundland and Labrador fish harvesting sector and other stakeholders in the fishing industry. Appointments to the committee will be made by the fall of 2011. Dr. Arthur May, president emeritus of Memorial University of Newfoundland, will chair this group.

The centre is also in the process of preparing a five-year research plan.