ARCHIVED - The Grand Banks of Newfoundland: Atlas of Human Activities

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Fisheries Introduction

Newfoundland and Labrador has long been known for its commercial fishery, more specifically its groundfish (i.e. Atlantic cod) fishery. As a result of declining groundfish stocks and moratoria in the early 1990s, more fishing effort has been directed towards shellfish such as crab and shrimp, and large pelagics such as tuna and swordfish. Groundfish species, however, are still landed in smaller quantities. A variety of gear types and fishing methods are used, depending on the target species. These include bottom otter trawl, longline, handline, gillnet, pots, etc. As well, many types and sizes of boats are used ranging from less than 35 feet to greater than 150 feet.

Data Source

The maps within this atlas consist of commercial fisheries landings data for groundfish, large pelagics and shellfish taken from the study area and landed in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. The data was obtained from the Policy and Economics Branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Newfoundland and Labrador Region and consists of logbookFootnote 1 data from 2000 – 2003 for NAFO Divisions 3LNOP. Maps were created based on directed species, as well as five gear types used within this region. To give a more comprehensive picture of the fishing activity occurring on the Grand Banks, fisheries data for species taken from the study area and landed in the Scotia-Fundy fisheries management regionFootnote 2 (Scotia-Fundy Region) was obtained from the Policy and Economics Branch of DFO Maritimes Region. This data consists of logbook data from 2000 – 2003 for groundfish, large pelagics and shellfish. Maps for gear type are not shown for species landed in this region as the dataset did not include this information. It is important to note that landings in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region, as well as the Scotia-Fundy Region, are from Canadian vessels. This atlas does not include information pertaining to international fishing vessels (i.e. St. Pierre). It is also important to note that because this information was obtained from logbook data, not all catches (i.e. those taken from less than 35 foot vessels) are reported; as a result, this data is not portrayed in this atlas.


For each of the fisheries landings maps, the Grand Banks study area was divided into two-minute units (cells); each cell measuring approximately 2.6 kilometres (east-west) by 3.7 kilometres (north-south). This two-minute ‘grid’ was overlaid on the fisheries data points and the total landings reported for each cell over the four-year period was summed. In the final maps only one value per cell (i.e. sum of landings in metric tonnes) was used; however, each cell may represent many fishing events over the four-year period. Figure 1 shows a sample two-minute grid overlaid on multiple points with corresponding landings reported in metric tonnes; figure 2 shows the same grid with the landings summed.

Figure 1 shows a sample two-minute grid overlaid on multiple points with corresponding landings reported in metric tonnes; figure 2 shows the same grid with the landings summed.

Each fisheries map was created using thematic maps based on equal count. Equal count has the same number of records in each class; thus, the total number of cells in each class is approximately the same. The highest reported landings (greater than 81 percent) fall within the red cells and the lowest reported landings (less than 20 percent) fall within the dark green cells. Readers should be aware that the map displaying groundfish landed in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region has seven classes; thus, each class accounting for approximately 14 percent of the total area. As well, all fisheries maps within the atlas have various breaks between the five classes; thus, a red cell on one map may have a much larger value than a red cell on another map.

By using equal count, readers are not able to determine where the values fall within the highest class; however, it can be determined that 80 percent of the areas where a particular species is caught, only X metric tonnes are landed (X can be any value depending on the species).

Ambiguous and Erroneous Data

More than 140,000 records have been used to show fishing activity within the atlas study area on the Grand Banks. This number accounts for species landed in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region as well as the Scotia-Fundy Region. When dealing with such a large dataset, there are many opportunities for errors and inaccuracies. For instance, many of the coordinates (latitudes and longitudes) used to show location of activity may have been entered incorrectly (i.e. incorrect coordinates entered into the logbook or coordinates were entered incorrectly in the database). Thus, this would explain why a certain species may be shown to have been caught in an unlikely location. These records have not been deleted from the database; however, readers should be aware that these errors may occur and caution should be exercised when interpreting maps.

For all records within the dataset, only one location is given for each activity (i.e. one latitude and longitude). As a result, a fishing activity that would normally cover a large area (i.e. trawling) is only shown in a single location.

Approximately 89 percent of the original number of records obtained was used to create the final maps. One reason is many of the records did not consist of viable latitude and longitude coordinates (i.e. 0º N, 0º W). As a result, records with high landings, potentially within the atlas study area, would not get included in the maps. Again, caution should be exercised when interpreting these maps; the locations/areas shown should be used as a general guide of where fishing does and does not occur.


Footnote 1

A required record completed by fishers which provides day to day fishing for each fishing trip.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Scotia-Fundy fisheries management region includes landings from the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia from Cape North along the Atlantic Coast and Bay of Fundy to New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island.

Return to footnote 2 referrer