MI to host Northwest Atlantic Redfish Symposium
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What could sustainable Canadian commercial fisheries for redfish look like in the future?

Researchers at the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) will address that question this week as they bring together about 75 scientists, fisheries managers, members of the fishing industry, Indigenous representatives and non-governmental organizations to participate in the Northwest Atlantic Redfish Symposium.

The two-day event takes place at the Ridge Road campus in St. John’s starting Nov. 15 and is co-hosted by MI’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR) and Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER).

Future research activities

“This symposium brings everyone together to review current scientific information about the challenges involved in developing sustainable fisheries for redfish in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean,” said Dr. Noel Cadigan, OCI Industrial Research Chair for Fish Stock Assessment and a quantitative fisheries scientist with CFER.Redfish Symposium 2018 - body 1

“We are looking forward to having productive discussions on how to best utilize the science capabilities in the region to deliver the information that fisheries managers and the fishing industry need to have successful and sustainable fisheries for redfish.”

The symposium discussions will also assist MI researchers in determining future research activities for redfish, including the design of fishing gear to limit catches of small redfish and reduce bycatch of other species.

Dr. Cadigan says the level of interest in the symposium exceeded expectations and includes extensive participation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) scientists.

“This clearly indicates to us that there is a recognized need for initiatives like this symposium, and this is what we are hearing from participants.”

Updates and innovations

The event includes presentations on the status of redfish stocks from DFO scientists and other scientists from Iceland, Greenland and the U.S.; recent innovations on fishing technology in Norway, Iceland and the U.S.; and ongoing research in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec.Redfish Symposium 2018 - body 2

“Demonstrations of fishing technology will also be shown in the flume tank, giving participants the opportunity to see innovations from different regions,” said Dr. Paul Winger, director of CSAR.

Drs. Cadigan and Winger are two of three principal researchers at MI who are working on Ocean Frontier Institute projects on sustainable capture fisheries and their ecosystems.

Redfish species

Several populations of deepwater redfish and Acadian redfish are found in Canadian waters, ranging from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Laurentian Channel off Newfoundland’s south coast to the Labrador Sea and as far north as Baffin Island.

A slow-growing and long-lived species, redfish inhabit water depths ranging from 150-500 metres.

Adult redfish range in colour from bright orange to bright red, are similar in appearance and difficult to distinguish from each other. In the past, catches of deepwater redfish and Acadian redfish have been reported and managed together — adding to the challenge of stock assessment and fisheries management.

While there has been no redfish fishery in the Gulf of St. Laurence since the early 1990s, there are small fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic. Last year, Canadian catches totalled about 22,000 tonnes.

Dr. Cadigan says a recent Fisheries and Oceans assessment of redfish stocks suggests this may change in the near future.‌

“The 2018 report indicates the exploitable stock size of redfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Laurentian Channel is expected to increase substantially by 2019 based on recent high survey catch rates of juvenile redfish in these areas.”

Symposium support

“We are thankful for financial support provided by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, Ocean Frontier Institute, Fisheries and Marine Institute and Notus Electronics Ltd,” said Dr. Winger.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is a research partnership consisting of Dalhousie University, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island. An international hub for ocean science, OFI brings together researchers and institutes from across the globe to understand our changing oceans and create safe, sustainable solutions for development.