Fish Harvesters Urge Minister to Reconsider Approach to Mackerel Fishery
August 28, 2019
FFAW-Unifor has requested an emergency meeting with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans as well as with Newfoundland and Labrador Members of Parliament to discuss the need for immediate quota increases in the Atlantic mackerel fishery. Fish harvesters anticipate an unnecessary, early closure of the mackerel fishery again this year as a result of inadequate science assessments that are not accounting for abundant mackerel on the northeast coast of the province.
“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (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 and coastal community are losing out on millions of dollars in income,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
Fish harvesters know that DFO science is underestimating the biomass of mackerel and as a result, the TAC has been set at an unacceptably low level. Harvester observations from the past number of a years were put forward at DFO stock assessments and advisory meetings in an objective manner, yet these valuable observations have been repeatedly ignored in management decisions.
Fish harvesters are reporting exceptionally high levels of mackerel not seen before this early in the season and have observed a large abundance of the species over the past number of years. However, DFO’s assessment for Atlantic mackerel is dependent on a larval survey that takes place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the Spring. This small snapshot does not give an adequate picture of the mackerel stock. Harvester observation and FFAW-Unifor sampling has indicated that mackerel are spawning on the northeast coast, in addition to the southern gulf where scientific surveys are being completed.
As a result of the gap in science, in 2018 FFAW-Unifor 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.
“We have 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 management regime needs to change. The experience and knowledge of harvesters has been repeatedly dismissed and that’s not something we’re willing to accept,” said Green Bay fish harvester Trevor Jones.
FFAW-Unifor will provide updates on the situation as they are available.
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