Last Update: December 2017

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
AC Coverts 

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:

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

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.

Progress Update 

Past Meetings: 

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2013) – Presentation (PDF)

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2012) – Presentation (PDF)

Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2011)


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

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.


The roundtable met in Boston, Massachusetts, US (March 2015) – Meeting notes (PDF) 

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.  While many stakeholders prefer a single FIP approach, as it would increase efficiency and reduce market confusion, the varying groups could not come to agreement under one FIP. 

WWF worked to bring both sides of the table together under a single 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. 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, which is expected to be published prior to Seafood Expo North America 2016.  SR members will be notified once this information has been 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.  

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 their 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. 

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 Supplier Roundtable meeting, Icewater Seafoods provided an update on the MSC progress – the stock is showing signs of improvement and the client group expected to announce full certification by October 2015.

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 all conditions presented in the full certification. 


The Atlantic Cod – St. Pierre Bank (3PS) fishery was certified, with nine conditions, on March 22, 2016.

However, the NGO community lodged objections to the MSC certification and concerns about stock health remain. 

The roundtable met during the Newfoundland Cod FIP meeting at the Brussels Global Seafood Expo in April. The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) and the Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council (GEAC) unveiled results and a workplan for the FIP. The workplan includes a significant investment in research to improve understanding and monitoring of Northern cod. This will help the FIP ensure its goal that the fishery reopens only at a time and pace when the recovery of the stock is assured. “The scale of industry investment in science and research planned in this FIP is unprecedented,” said Jim Cannon, SFP’s Founder and CEO. “It’s an exciting development and shows what top-notch industry-led FIPs can do to assist with core fisheries management tasks. SFP is committed to assisting the FIP in finding financing for these essential research activities.” 

With the Newfoundland Cod FIPs serving as role models for improvements in NW Atlantic cod fisheries and stocks, the SR decided to focus on monitoring and supporting the progress of the existing FIPs in the SR.


SR participants met during the Seafood Expo North America in Boston to receive an update on the improvement efforts for Newfoundland cod. Unfortunately both FIPs’ working groups continue to disagree on the approaches to improvement and will continue addressing the same sustainability challenges separately. 

Both Newfoundland cod FIPs are reporting on 

The Canada/Newfoundland 3Ps cod fishery has voluntarily suspended its MSC certificate in light of recently renewed concerns about stock health resulting from changes in the ecosystem. The Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council (GEAC) plans to instead initiate a FIP to complete an action plan that includes continued compliance with, and reporting on, all conditions associated with the suspended MSC certification. A close collaboration with the Northern Cod FIP, run by the same industry association for offshore fishery companies in Canada, is advised and supported by SR participants.

The 3Ps Cod FIP has registered as Prospective FIP and is in process to develop its work plan and report against it in to maintain transparency of their improvement efforts.

Project Contact:

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