Fishing for Answers - Fisheries Ecosystems, Stocks and Sustainability Focus for MI Researchers
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A group of researchers at the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) believe the ocean is of fundamental importance to Canada and the world.

Drs. Noel Cadigan, Paul Winger and Jonathan Fisher are part of the newly created Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI). They will be the principal researchers on projects related to stock assessment, ecosystem assessment and sustainable fishing gear.

“We’re really looking forward to being part of the Ocean Frontier Institute and building on the research that MI has been focused on for decades,” said Dr. Cadigan. “We’ll be working to produce data that addresses knowledge gaps around successful and sustainable use of marine resources and train highly qualified personnel who will eventually become leaders in oceans sectors.”

Dalhousie University, the University of Prince Edward Island and Memorial are coming together in an historic partnership to form the Ocean Frontier Institute, each bringing their individual strengths in science relating to atmosphere-ocean interaction, ecosystems, fisheries, aquaculture and social science to the table.

Drs. Cadigan and Fisher are research scientists with MI’s Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER), which has been focused on better understanding fish stocks and the productivity of Newfoundland and Labrador’s marine ecosystem through fisheries research since 2010.

As part of the OFI, they will develop and improve state-of-the-art stock assessment models for sustainable harvest advice. They’ll also explore ecosystem assessment models for Northwest Atlantic fisheries production under climate change and create an industry research chair in fish stock assessment and sustainable harvest advice.

“Our research will expand Canada’s excellence in sustainable capture fisheries research by increasing our awareness of cold-water marine population dynamics and fisheries management,” Dr. Fisher said.

Dr. Winger is the director of the institute’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR). His research team will focus on the development of sustainable harvesting technology for a rapidly changing ocean.

With warming ocean waters, species not presently harvested are presenting new and emerging opportunities for the fishing industry. Species such as redfish, Atlantic cod and silver hake are rapidly increasing in abundance in some areas.


Many of these species declined in the 1980s and 1990s; they were subsequently placed under moratorium. There is an urgent need for new fishing technology to responsibly harvest these species, says Dr. Winger.

“Sustainable fisheries require harvesting technology and practices that are ecologically responsible. Adoption of old fishing practices and technologies will not be acceptable for today’s consumer‚Äźdriven market.”

Working with industry, government and international collaborators, Dr. Winger and his team will go to sea on board research and industry vessels to conduct comparative fishing experiments to evaluate the performance of innovative fishing systems.

The team is also focused on the recruitment and development of the next generation of fisheries scientists.

“MI’s School of Fisheries has been mentoring graduate students from all over the world for many years and this focus will rapidly expand our work in this area,” said Dr. Fisher. “Through the OFI, the team will engage approximately 50 PhDs, master’s and post-doctoral fellows under the leadership of our team of research scientists.”

The goal is to produce world-class researchers with advanced skills in fisheries science and technology, increasing the capacity to develop and maintain sustainable fisheries and improve decision-making abilities to address the challenges of our changing oceans.

The three will work in collaboration with scientists in Canada, the U.S. and Europe to improve stock assessment models, expand knowledge of population dynamics and develop sustainable harvesting technology in the context of rapidly changing oceans.

“We’re very pleased to be part of the OFI and look forward to building upon MI’s proven track record of working in partnership with the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in this province, across the country and around the world,” said Dr. Winger.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is an historic partnership between Dalhousie University, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island. Created through a nearly $100-million federal investment, the OFI will focus on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development. Through its unique partnership with its research partners, Memorial will lead breakthroughs in four key areas: sustainable fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; marine safety; and ocean data and technology. Learn more about the OFI here.