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Taking shape

Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research laying groundwork for future success


The RV Celtic Explorer will arrive in the province in early February to begin overwintering cod surveys.

By Darcy MacRae

The Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University of Newfoundland’s new Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research (CFER) is taking shape, thanks to support from the provincial government and a wealth of expertise and experience at MI.

CFER ( recently gained access to a state-of-the-art fisheries science and oceanographic vessel and is in the process of hiring staff and personnel. Glenn Blackwood, executive director, MI, says the centre is positioning itself to play an essential role in the future of fisheries in the province.

“The research conducted by the staff at CFER will result in a better understanding of fish stocks and the status of Newfoundland and Labrador’s marine ecosystem,” Mr. Blackwood said. “This important research will significantly add to the knowledge that we have about our marine fisheries ecosystems. With the people we are hiring and the technology made available to us, we are going to have a whole new capacity of information and expertise.”
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador helped launch CFER in July 2010 by providing the Marine Institute with $11.75 million to establish the centre. This includes $6.5 million toward the human resources and operating costs of the centre, over the next five years, and $5.25 million for the chartering of large research vessels for offshore research.

In October, 2010, the Marine Institute revealed it will charter the RV Celtic Explorer from the Irish Marine Institute in Galway, Ireland for research directly related to CFER activities.

The charter agreement was signed in Dublin on Oct. 7 during a meeting attended by Clyde Jackman, minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture; Dr. Peter Heffernan, chief executive of the Marine Institute of Ireland; and Mr. Blackwood. The RV Celtic Explorer will conduct trans-Atlantic marine research involving CFER and collaborating scientists from Memorial University, post-secondary institutions in Ireland and other oceanographic institutes.

The RV Celtic Explorer will arrive in the province in early February to begin overwintering cod surveys.

“The chartering of the RV Celtic Explorer is an important step toward establishing CFER as the premiere university-based authority on fisheries and ecosystems research in Eastern Canada,” said Mr. Blackwood. “CFER aims to create a better understanding of fish stocks and status of Newfoundland and Labrador’s marine ecosystems, both at present and in the future. Having the RV Celtic Explorer at our disposal greatly aids our efforts in this regard.”

Internationally renowned fisheries researcher George Rose will serve as CFER’s scientific director, with Tom Brown filling the role of administrative director.
Dr. Rose looks forward to building a team of researchers, technicians and graduate students capable of carrying out the goals of MI’s newest centre. Recently, the Marine Institute began the process of recruiting people to fill eight new positions within CFER.

Dr. Rose expects CFER to take a leading role in fisheries research in Newfoundland and Labrador, enabling the province to better participate in federal and international fisheries management decision making.

CFER-driven research will also aid opportunities to collaborate with Canadian fisheries scientists, as well as with fisheries research institutes around the world, in countries such as Ireland, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Tanzania and the United States.

However, Dr. Rose said the initial focus of CFER will be on the most pressing fisheries research issues of the day in Newfoundland and Labrador, especially the rebuilding of ground fish stocks such as cod.

“CFER will assist the development of sustainable and profitable fisheries while supporting a vision of a long-term future for the fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.