July 29, 2022
The Fish Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) is once again calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to invest in new science opportunities for mackerel given the signs of abundance reported by harvesters and the inadequate level of current surveys completed by the federal government.
Earlier this year, the Minister responsible for Fisheries and Oceans, Joyce 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.
“Announcing a moratorium on the mackerel fishery without investing in new science opportunities is one more example of how DFO and Minister Joyce Murray would rather eliminate livelihoods rather than do the work that needs to be done. DFO is continually failing to adequately assess species that are critical to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
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 from La Scie.
“Minister Murray must commit to understanding this stock with comprehensive scientific assessments. The current understanding of mackerel is woefully inadequate, and we cannot let another season go by without taking action,” Sullivan concludes.
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