Immediate Action Needed to Save Atlantic Cod

CLF petitions for management intervention and overhaul of New England’s founding fish

Atlantic cod

Atlantic cod. Photo: Vladimir Wrangel via Shutterstock

February 13, 2020 (BOSTON, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has filed a petition demanding that the National Marine Fisheries Service take immediate action to end the unlawful overfishing of New England’s Atlantic cod. The fish was once the bread and butter of the region’s fishing industry and is now depleted to historic and alarming low levels of abundance.

“Our regional managers have lost control of and abandoned the cod fishery,” said Peter Shelley, Senior Counsel at Conservation Law Foundation. “After decades of reckless decision-making, Atlantic cod populations are now in crisis. To give this iconic species a chance at survival and recovery, the federal government must take the strongest possible action today and temporarily prohibit further cod fishing.”

CLF’s petition to Secretary Ross of the Commerce Department and the National Marine Fisheries Service calls for a prohibition on commercial and recreational cod fishing until the populations are out of crisis. The petition also requests measures to collect accurate data by fully monitoring commercial groundfish trips, closing important cod areas to fishing, and reducing unintentional catch of cod in other fisheries. Scientists have been calling for this level of comprehensive action for years to prevent overfishing of Atlantic cod, and managers have repeatedly failed to act.

Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, regional fishery councils are required to rebuild overfished stocks as quickly as possible. Both stocks of Atlantic cod have essentially been overfished and subject to excessive fishing pressure for more than 30 years. And now, after decades of mismanagement, cod now face the additional stress of climate change.

CLF’s petition highlights the need for the National Marine Fisheries Service to take management authority over cod away from regional managers and bring the fishery back into compliance with federal law by implementing a new plan to rebuild and sustainably manage cod.

CLF has a history of going to court to protect cod fishing in New England and will pursue legal action if necessary.

CLF experts are available for further comment.