Last Update: February 2016

Much of the whitefish sector has made vast improvements in sustainability over the last decade. However, nearly all cod fisheries in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (Canada and US waters) still face serious challenges. The Northwest Atlantic Cod Supply Chain Roundtable focuses on monitoring the sustainability status of US and Canadian cod stocks supplying US, Canadian, and European retailers, discussing conditions for the reopening of closed fisheries and resumption of sourcing, and pushing for improvements where they are needed.  

Supply Chain Roundtable Participants: 

Ocean Choices International



High Liner 

Fisheries and Fishery Improvement Projects Covered: 

At present, the Roundtable focuses on a number of fisheries for NW Atlantic Cod in fishing zones off the coasts of Eastern Canada and Northeastern United States. The following FIPs are supported and monitored:

 The Roundtable is in the process of assessing other fisheries for potential FIPs:

  • Atlantic cod – S. Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Atlantic cod – Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy
  • Atlantic cod – N. Gulf of St. Lawrence

 Find the full list of fisheries in need of improvements overseen by the Roundtable here.  

Improvement Needs and Recommendations: Improvement Needs: 

  • Climate change is thought to be an exacerbating factor in the recovery of some of these fisheries.  Regulators and the scientific community should conduct reviews of Biological Reference Points (BRPs) across all the fisheries to better reflect regime shifts.

 Action recommendation for suppliers: 

  • Suppliers should support the New England Fishery Management Council’s shift to an ecosystem-based fishery management (EBFM) plan.

 Current Objectives: 

  • Oversee all potential FIPs in scope of the Roundtable.
  • Unify efforts on FIP activities that can be supported by suppliers throughout the region.
  • Catalyze FIPs when required.

Progress Update 


  • Roundtable discussions focused on Canadian fisheries, with current focus on the need for FIPs requested by retailers, improved cod fishery research needs, and also the efforts of the St. Pierre Bank (3PS) fishery to enter MSC full assessment.
  • SFP discussed a Canadian cod FIP with the supply chain regarding the N. Labrador and Scotian Shelf fisheries (2J3KL), but the market supply has been insufficient to effectively mobilize the supply chain.
  • SFP worked with North American retail interests around coordinating an initial FIP planning meeting planned for early 2015. The focus will be on presenting the FIP approach to the catch sector and any quota-holding stakeholders and exploring funding opportunities.


Atlantic Cod – Newfoundland (2J3KL)In Newfoundland, the area commonly referred to as 2J3KL, harvesters and processors are working towards launching separate FIPs involving the same cod fishery.  Many stakeholders prefer a single FIP approach, as it would increase efficiency, but the varying groups could not come to agreement under one FIP.

WWF worked hard to bring both sides of the table together under one FIP, but longstanding differences between some harvesters and some processors prevented a successful partnership between the two sectors. Currently, the harvesters, represented by the FFAW (Fish, Food and Allied Workers), are allowed to harvest roughly 4,000 mt from the inshore fishery, under what is known as a “sentinel” fishery. While Newfoundland cod is under a fishing moratorium, the sentinel fishery was established to mitigate the economic impacts on local communities by allowing fishermen to catch a limited amount of cod for personal consumption. This fishery also enabled fishery managers to access fishery dependent data during the moratorium to help monitor the stock. WWF was approached by the FFAW to run their FIP and, as of May 2015, WWF has signed a MoU with the FFAW to coordinate a FIP in Newfoundland.  They are in the process of developing a public record for the FIP; SR members will be notified and the SR website will be updated with the WWF/FFAW FIP website once it is made public.  

The Association of Seafood Producers members (processors) have developed an industry-led FIP in Newfoundland. Many of these members have a vested interest in the offshore fishery, which is currently closed to cod fishing. 

Since the Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages the Newfoundland inshore and offshore fisheries together, any management changes would impact both sectors, further supporting a single FIP approach. Both FIPs, once finalized, will be seeking the same outcomes (HCRs, rebuilding strategies, etc.), and it is the hope of the Supply Chain Roundtable that the two FIPs will become aligned and collaborate their efforts in the near future. 

Also, it should be noted that SFP is not participating in any FIP in Newfoundland, despite this being reported in an erroneous media article.  SFP did provide the processors with recommendations for the workplan, which included independent recruitment and future harvest scenario modeling and data collection on spawning ground density, and the processors have agreed to adopt these recommendations. The ASP/GEAC FIP workplan has been published and is linked here.  

Atlantic Cod – St. Pierre Bank (3PS)

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been involved in fishery improvements in the St. Pierre Bank cod fishery since early 2011. WWF worked with stakeholders to develop a workplan, which included biological reference points, harvest control rules, and a rebuilding strategy. As a result, the fishery entered MSC full assessment in spring of 2014. At the 2015 NW Atlantic Cod Supply Chain Roundtable meeting, Icewater Seafoods provided an update on the MSC progress – the stock is showing signs of improvement and the client group expects to announce full certification by October 2015. However, the NGO community lodged objections to the MSC certification and the process is still unfolding with the independent adjudicator. Updates to this process will be posted as they become available. 

WWF has referred to the efforts in the St. Pierre Bank fishery as a “FIP”, but SFP has not tracked this fishery as being in a FIP because SFP was unable to locate a public FIP website that include improvement activities, workplan, or assessment prior to the MSC full assessment. Regardless, the Roundtable members will continue to request updates on the status of the fishery and support closing out any conditions presented in the full assessment. The document is here.  


The NW Atlantic Cod Supply Chain Roundtable is usually held concurrently with the Seafood Expo North America (formerly known as the International Boston Seafood Show) or via conference call throughout the year, and participation is by invitation only. Companies interested in becoming participants should email SFP. 

Past Meetings: 

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2015) – Meeting notes

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2014) – Meeting notes

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2013) – Presentation

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2012) – Presentation

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2011)  

Planned Meetings: 

April 2016, to take place at the Seafood Expo Global in Brussels.

Update briefing will be distributed prior to next in-person meeting.  

Project Contact:

If you would like more information about the Supply Chain Roundtable or wish to support it, please contact SFP.