News Release

REF NO.: 122

SUBJECT: Understanding fish stocks: Marine Institute home to new OCI Industrial Research Chair for Fish Stock Assessment

DATE: August 24, 2017

An investment in excess of $2.5 million from industry, government, academia, donors and the Marine Institute will advance the way fish stock assessments for the Northwest Atlantic fisheries are conducted.

Dr. Noel Cadigan, a quantitative fisheries scientist with the Marine Institute, has been appointed as the Ocean Choice International (OCI) Research Chair in Stock Assessment and Sustainable Harvest Advice for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Over a five-year period, Ocean Choice International and InnovateNL will each contribute $500,000. Additional funding will be leveraged against the chair through the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) and the Marine Institute while the Robert and Edith Skinner Wildlife Management Fund at the Fisheries and Marine Institute will provide $500,000 to support the work of the chair. The funding will also assist in hiring two stock assessment research scientists in fish stock assessment.

A partnership among Memorial University, Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island, OFI brings together researchers and institutes from both sides of the North Atlantic to understand the changing ocean and create safe, sustainable solutions for development.

“At Ocean Choice International, sustainability is at the core of everything we do,” said Martin Sullivan, CEO, Ocean Choice International. “We’re proud to invest in science right here in Newfoundland and Labrador and to have committed partners in Memorial University’s Marine Institute and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. There is incredible value in industry, government and academia working together to advance our understanding of the marine environment.”

“New models for stock assessment of the Northwest Atlantic fishery are critical to the long-term sustainability of the province’s oldest industry,” said Christopher Mitchelmore, minister, Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and minister responsible for InnovateNL. “By investing in this collaborative research and development, we are increasing expertise and potentially changing the way the fishery is managed in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The goal of the chair is to further the state-of-the-art and current practice in fish stock assessment and focus on sustainability objectives and requirements for Northwest Atlantic fisheries, specifically those on the Grand Banks, N.L., including but not limited to, American plaice, yellowtail flounder, Greenland halibut and redfish. Research has already started with progress on all of these stocks.

“Peaking at over $1.4 billion in production value in 2016, our provincial seafood industry employs approximately 17,500 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and is a major contributor to our provincial economy,” said Gerry Byrne, minister, Fisheries and Land Resources. “As resources shift and groundfish stocks rebound, strong research and development will produce many of the innovations necessary to facilitate a large-scale transition across all corners of the industry.”

“Our team and research will develop and implement an integrated state-space stock assessment model, with a more holistic modelling of productivity processes such as reproduction, growth and mortality and how they can vary over time in response to ecosystem changes and the impacts on this on management reference points,” said Dr. Cadigan.

Dr. Cadigan’s research will be interdisciplinary and involve advanced knowledge of practical and theoretical marine population and ecosystem dynamics, statistical and mathematical modelling, and computational science. Stock assessments involve models that integrate all relevant data on the population dynamics of a stock so the assessment produces the best advice possible for fisheries management.

“Our fish stocks are one of our most valuable natural resources and Dr. Cadigan’s research, with the support of OCI, government and our collaborators, will help ensure we sustain these stocks with more detailed information and analysis for more informed decision-making,” said Glenn Blackwood, vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute). “Establishing this chair at the Marine Institute will further our leadership role in fisheries research and contribute to our role in advancing unique, interdisciplinary ocean-related research and innovation within the Ocean Frontier Institute.”

As research chair, Dr. Cadigan will also train a number of master’s and doctoral students, expanding the province’s capacity and expertise to conduct and analyze assessment data and provide advice on stock sustainability. This will also help address a critical shortage of skilled fishery stock assessment scientists in Canada and internationally.

To that end, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will support the chair’s work by co-supervising graduate students along with the provision of fish stock data and advice to the chair’s research program.

The Robert and Edith Skinner Wildlife Management Fund at the Fisheries and Marine Institute was created from a gift reflecting the interests of the Skinners and their estate to support Memorial University researchers in the areas of aquaculture nutrition, wildlife ecology, fish stock assessment and sustainable harvesting.

“This will is going to create a lasting legacy in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Jeff Follett, executor for the Skinner estate. “Bob and Edith would be pleased with how Memorial is putting their gift to good use.”

Dr. Cadigan specializes in statistical methods for fish stock assessment and sustainable fisheries with the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research. He has extensive experience in the assessment of Newfoundland and Labrador fish stocks and has experience with other Canadian, American and European stocks.

He worked with Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Center in Newfoundland and Labrador from 1990-2011 and focused on the assessment of Atlantic cod and other groundfish stocks.

He received his doctor of philosophy in statistics at the University of Waterloo, and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Memorial University. Dr. Cadigan is a cross-appointed member in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Memorial University and has supervised graduate students in statistics whose research involved applications to stock assessment problems.


“I’m looking forward to working with OCI, the fishing industry and all of our supporters to advance our understanding of our fish stocks and provide the most precise harvest advice possible,” said Dr. Cadigan.

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