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Continued Mackerel Closure Hurting NL Communities

July 14, 2023

Harvesters continue to report mackerel abundance from coast to coast, in complete contradiction to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) assertion that the stock, under moratorium since last year, is failing. The continued closure is an economic loss to coastal Newfoundland and Labrador fishery workers who are acutely struggling this year due to impacts on snow crab markets.

“People are reporting abundances of mackerel along the coast of our province that tells a very different story than that of DFO Science,” says FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle. “The disconnect is troubling for harvesters who’ve been reporting observations that challenge the previously stated spawning areas. It’s clear the stock is much healthier than what DFO says, but unfortunately, they refuse to do the extra science needed to properly assess new spawning grounds. The result of that lack of prioritization is a significant loss to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Spingle says.

At a time when harvesters should be getting ready to go fishing, they are witnessing levels of mackerel previously unseen in areas like the Strait of Belle Isle, where large numbers of mackerel are visible from the surface. The observations are difficult to reconcile with DFO’s claim that mackerel is a species of concern.

“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,” says Trevor Jones, 3K fish harvester.

“Minister Murray must commit to understanding this stock in Canadian waters, including effort to understand changing distribution and abundance throughout the stock area. The current understanding of mackerel is woefully inadequate, and we cannot let another season go by without action,” Spingle concludes.