With a Coast Guard research vessel about to be decommissioned, the Dutch fisheries union has concerns

The research vessel CCGS Alfred Needler is decommissioned by the Canadian Coast Guard.  (CBC - photo credit)

The research vessel CCGS Alfred Needler is decommissioned by the Canadian Coast Guard. (CBC – photo credit)



The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans says a full stock assessment for northern cod and shrimp will not be conducted this year, raising concerns for seafood harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador.

On Thursday, the Canadian Coast Guard announced that research vessel CCGS Alfred Needler will be decommissioned in late 2022 and early 2023 after 40 years of service due to “significant mechanical and structural deficiencies.”

“The Coast Guard determined that the vessel was beyond repair and further investment would not allow it to return to reliable and safe service,” Gary Ivany, deputy commissioner for the Canadian Coast Guard’s Atlantic Region, said on Friday.

The decommissioning poses problems for the DFO scientists, who are tasked with providing an update on the status of the stock. From there, resource management considers the best available science, stakeholder input, and socioeconomics.

The loss of assessments is also a concern for harvesters who fear another missed assessment will result in reductions or extensions in total allowable catches. Cod has been listed as vulnerable and shrimp biomass is declining.

“To say that there is no assessment for these two major fish stocks is certainly unacceptable to us,” said Jason Spingle, secretary and treasurer of the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union.

“You should reconsider and do these reviews.”

Since 2020, the DFO has faced two problems: the COVID-19 pandemic and breakdowns of aging research vessels.



Brian Healey, DFO’s Newfoundland and Labrador department head for aquatic resources, said as a result a full survey of multiple species was not conducted in the fall and the spring survey was doubtful.

“Our spring plans are definitely changing and there will certainly be some impact,” Healey said.

“But what that is exactly, we are still evaluating. We’ve had our experts work on the plan to adjust it based on the news about the Needler and see what we could do in spring 2023 – basically early April.”

The Alfred Needler was also used to study how new research ships entering service compare to the performance of older ships to ensure the scientific accuracy of future studies.

Ivany said replacement ships are in place, but there were reliability issues with some of the new ships in the early days of the pandemic, delaying some of the comparative scientific work.

He said these ships are working well now, but the equipment on board generally has reliability issues early in its life and towards the end of its life.

“The last three years have really all culminated in expansions well beyond where we would have hoped to be able to operate this ship,” he said.

“It was really just some launch challenges, some warranty issues. As we all know in Canada or around the world for the last two or three years it has been a real challenge to have something fixed that you have tried to do down the supply chain… These are very complex, state-of-the-art vessels and just tweaks that needed to be made.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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