Go to page content

Understanding fish stocks

MI home to OCI Industrial Research Chair for Fish Stock Assessment

Research

By Leslie Earle

Dr. Noel Cadigan has been named the first Ocean Choice International Research Chair in Stock Assessment and Sustainable Harvest Advice for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries.

The new chair is an investment of $2.5 million from industry, government, academia, donors and the Marine Institute (MI) to advance the way fish stock assessments for the Northwest Atlantic fisheries are conducted.

Housed at MI, it is only the second industry research chair in the 54-year history of MI.

Noel Cadigan
Quantitative fisheries scientist Dr. Noel Cadigan.
Photo: Angie Bishop

Over the next five years, Ocean Choice International and the provincial government, through InnovateNL, will each contribute $500,000. Additional funding will be leveraged against the chair through the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) and MI while the Robert and Edith Skinner Wildlife Management Fund at the Fisheries and Marine Institute will provide $500,000 to support the work of the chair and the hiring of two research scientists in fish stock assessment.

Sustainable science

The goal of the chair is to further the state-of-the-art and current practice in fish stock assessment and focus on sustainability objectives and requirements for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries and specifically those on the Grand Banks, N.L., including but not limited to American plaice, yellowtail flounder, Greenland halibut and redfish.

Research has already started with progress on all of these stocks.

“There is incredible value in industry, government and academia working together to advance our understanding of the marine environment.” — Martin Sullivan

“At Ocean Choice International, sustainability is at the core of everything we do,” said Martin Sullivan, CEO, Ocean Choice International. “We’re proud to invest in science right here in Newfoundland and Labrador and to have committed partners in Memorial University’s Marine Institute and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  There is incredible value in industry, government and academia working together to advance our understanding of the marine environment.”

The sentiment is shared by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“New models for stock assessment of the Northwest Atlantic fishery are critical to the long-term sustainability of the province’s oldest industry,” said Christopher Mitchelmore, minister, Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, and minister responsible for InnovateNL. “By investing in this collaborative research and development, we are increasing expertise and potentially changing the way the fishery is managed in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

“Peaking at over $1.4 billion in production value in 2016, our provincial seafood industry employs approximately 17,500 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and is a major contributor to our provincial economy,” said Gerry Byrne, minister, Fisheries and Land Resources. “As resources shift and groundfish stocks rebound, strong research and development will produce many of the innovations necessary to facilitate a large-scale transition across all corners of the industry.”

The chair is also supported by the Robert and Edith Skinner Wildlife Management Fund at the Fisheries and Marine Institute which was created from a gift reflecting the interests of the Skinners and their estate to support Memorial University researchers in the areas of aquaculture nutrition, wildlife ecology, fish stock assessment and sustainable harvesting.

“This is going to create a lasting legacy in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Jeff Follett, executor for the Skinner estate. “Bob and Edith would be pleased with how Memorial is putting their gift to good use.”

Fish stocks

Establishing this chair will further the Marine Institute’s leadership role in fisheries research, one that was established with the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research and contribute to MI’s role in advancing unique, interdisciplinary ocean-related research and innovation within the Ocean Frontier Institute.

“Our team and research will develop and implement an integrated state-space stock assessment model, with a more holistic modelling of productivity processes such as reproduction, growth and mortality, and how they can vary over time in response to ecosystem changes and the impacts on this on management reference points,” said Dr. Cadigan.

“Our fish stocks are one of our most valuable natural resources and Dr. Cadigan’s research, with the support of OCI, government and our collaborators, will help ensure we sustain these stocks.” — Glenn Blackwood

Dr. Cadigan’s research will be interdisciplinary and involve advanced knowledge of practical and theoretical marine population and ecosystem dynamics, statistical and mathematical modelling, and computational science. Stock assessments involve models that integrate all relevant data on the population dynamics of a stock so the assessment produces the best advice possible for fisheries management.

“Our fish stocks are one of our most valuable natural resources and Dr. Cadigan’s research, with the support of OCI, government and our collaborators, will help ensure we sustain these stocks with more detailed information and analysis for more informed decision-making,” said Glenn Blackwood, vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute).

“Establishing this chair at the Marine Institute will further our leadership role in fisheries research and contribute to our role in advancing unique, interdisciplinary ocean-related research and innovation within the Ocean Frontier Institute.”

Student focus

An integral part of this new role is educating the next generation of stock assessment scientists.

As research chair, Dr. Cadigan will train a number of master’s and doctoral students, expanding the province’s capacity and expertise to conduct and analyze assessment data and provide advice on stock sustainability. This will also help address a critical shortage of skilled fishery stock assessment scientists in Canada and internationally.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will be co-supervising graduate students and providing fish stock data and advice to support the chair’s research program.

The new chair also aligns with MI’s new master’s graduate program in fisheries science (stock assessment) and the new PhD program in fisheries science – another first for MI.

Research experience

Dr. Cadigan specializes in statistical methods for fish stock assessment and sustainable fisheries with the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research. He has extensive experience in the assessment of Newfoundland fish stocks and has experience with other Canadian, American and European stocks.

From 1990 to 2001, he worked with Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre where he focused on the assessment of Atlantic cod and other groundfish stocks.

He received his doctor of philosophy in statistics at the University of Waterloo and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Memorial University. Dr. Cadigan is a cross-appointed member in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Memorial University and has supervised graduate students in statistics whose research involved applications to stock assessment problems.

“I’m looking forward to working with OCI, the fishing industry and all of our supporters to advance our understanding of our fish stocks and provide the most precise harvest advice possible,” said Dr. Cadigan.


To receive news from Memorial in your inbox, subscribe to Gazette Now.