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Fish Harvesters’ Knowledge and Satellite Tagging Research Highlights Key Management Issues in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

November 30, 2022

A recently published academic paper led by Marine Institute researcher Rachel Marshall is based on information from fish harvesters’ knowledge interviews and from satellite tagging of Atlantic halibut has identified overlaps – and potentially negative impacts – between Atlantic halibut spawning grounds and the new Gulf redfish fishery.  

Long-time harvesters from the west coast of Newfoundland and southern Labrador were interviewed.  All interviewed harvesters commented on the increase in halibut abundance in the Gulf. For example, one harvester reported that when he started fishing halibut, “if you got 500 pounds a day, you were doing good, and that was with forty tubs of gear” whereas “you catch that much on a tub now.” 

Importantly, interviewed harvesters also discussed halibut spawning and potential negative impacts from bycatch in other fisheries and from other ocean uses, such as oil and gas. Using data from satellite tags, researchers were able to infer the location and timing of halibut spawning in the Gulf.  Tagged halibut spawning behaviour occurred between January and April in deep water.  A key result from the paper was that harvesters highlighted the potential for negative impacts from the new Gulf redfish fishery, which directly overlaps with halibut spawning grounds.

This is one of the reasons why FFAW is working to document ways to fish redfish sustainably, and without harming Atlantic halibut populations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Our research, with funding and support from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, is designed to address these harvesters’ concerns. We aim to minimize or preferably eliminate any negative impacts on Gulf halibut.    

The research paper by Rachel Marshall and other researchers (Memorial University, University of Quebec and FFAW) shows why it is important to use complementary data, in this case from satellite tags and fish harvesters’ knowledge interviews, to understand and best manage marine ecosystems.