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CLOSURE WITHOUT CAUSE: Unprecedented Levels of Mackerel Call into Question Minister’s Decision to Close Fishery

August 29, 2022

August 29, 2022

Fish harvesters throughout the province are reporting observations of unprecedented levels of mackerel, calling into question the decision by Minister Joyce Murray and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to close the commercial fishery this year. Harvesters are once again asking Minster Murray to take urgent action to reconsider the decision and undertake new survey opportunities to better understand the true health of the mackerel stock.

Harvesters throughout the province have been sending in their observations and photos of mackerel schools and unprecedented levels of bycatch during other fisheries.

“The unheard-of levels of mackerel being witnessed this season underscores the fact that Minister Murray made the wrong decision calling a moratorium on the mackerel fishery. We’re asking Minister Murray and other senior DFO officials for an urgent meeting to discuss this important fishery and how we can prevent another unjustified closure next season,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan

Earlier this year, Minister Murray called an unjustified moratorium on mackerel. It was a drastic step given the positive signs of growth and the Union’s repeated requests for additional assessment surveys. FFAW-Unifor has been advocating for additional mackerel research for several years as a result of the important changes observed in distribution and spawning patterns that are not accounted for by DFO’s current surveys. However, the Department has failed to address these concerns or take advantage of new stock survey opportunities. Current assessments and management plans have not reflected the significant knowledge of fish harvesters, and their observations of changing distribution, abundance, and growth, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador waters.

“I’ve been at this for over 30 years and in all my years fishing, I have never seen better signs of mackerel – period,” says Robert’s Arm harvester, Trevor Jones. “As harvesters, we know that DFO is significantly underestimating the biomass of mackerel. We recognize that anecdotal evidence is not always enough and so year after year we’ve proposed science projects that would prove what we’re seeing on the water. But our government would rather sacrifice our livelihoods than do the work needed to better understand this stock,” Jones explains.

“DFO must commit to understanding this stock with comprehensive scientific assessments. The current understanding of mackerel is woefully inadequate, and we cannot let another year go by without taking action,” Sullivan concludes.