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Harvesters frustrated with DFO on mackerel fishery closure

October 17, 2018

FFAW-Unifor is calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to reconsider the decision to close the Atlantic Mackerel fishery despite evidence that suggests the stock on the northeast coast is abundant. Coastal communities are understandably frustrated at the loss of millions of dollars in income due to an unnecessary closure of the mackerel fishery.

“FFAW members are justified in their frustrations at being shut out of a fishery that is showing many signs of being healthy and abundant. Moreover, many removals are not being recorded, especially in the maritime region. This is simply unacceptable,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.

Stakeholders believe that the science is underestimating the biomass is flawed and consequently the TAC has been set at an unacceptably low level. Harvester observations from the past number of a years were put forward in an objective manner, yet these valuable observations were ignored in management decisions.

“DFO has not done the appropriate work needed to both accurately estimate the mackerel biomass and calculate commercial and recreational removals. Consequently, our members are being shortchanged the opportunity to harvest at reasonable levels,” Sullivan added.

Observations indicate that mackerel are spawning in the northeast coast in addition to the southern gulf where scientific surveys are being completed.

“If significant numbers of mackerel are spawning on the northeast coast, then the southern Gulf survey would be missing those fish and underestimating the stock,” said Dr. Erin Carruthers, FFAW-Unifor fisheries scientist.

As a result of this, FFAW-Unifor recently put out a call for small mackerel samples (under 20cm long) on the northeast coast that will help us better understand spawning distribution in this region.

FFAW staff and members have participated in countless science assessment and management meetings over the past several years.

“We invested a significant amount of time into this process knowing what happened in previous years with lots of fish in the water and no quota. This needs to change. The experience and knowledge of harvesters has been repeatedly dismissed and that is unacceptable,” said fish harvester Robbie Green of Old Perlican.

FFAW-Unifor has requested a meeting with DFO to discuss these concerns and will provide updates when available.