This afternoon, the Atlantic Mackerel Advisory Committee (AMAC) announced a 20% decrease in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Atlantic mackerel, from 10,000mt last year to 8,000mt for the 2019 season.
FFAW-Unifor is calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to give further consideration to mackerel located on the northeast coast that is showing signs of abundance.
Stakeholders believe that science is underestimating the biomass of mackerel and consequently the TAC has been set at an unacceptably low level. Harvester observations from the past number of a years were put forward at stock assessment and advisory meetings 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,” says Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President.
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 gap in information, in 2018 FFAW-Unifor issued a call for small mackerel samples (under 20cm long) on the northeast coast to better understand spawning distribution in this region.
FFAW-Unifor staff and members have participated in countless science assessment and management meetings over the past several years and have consistently raised the need for more scientific work to be done on the northeast coast.
“We invested a significant amount of time in 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 is requesting a meeting with DFO officials to discuss these concerns and the effect a reduced TAC will have on fish harvesters in the province.