March 30, 2022
ST. JOHN’S, NL – Today, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has announced a moratorium on the mackerel fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fish harvesters are shocked Minister Murray has taken such a drastic step given the positive signs of growth of the mackerel stock, and are calling for an immediate reversal of the decision as well as a commitment to work with harvesters to address significant gaps in science.
“Announcing a moratorium on the mackerel fishery is one more example of how DFO and Minister Joyce Murray would rather eliminate livelihoods rather than do the actual work that needs to be done. DFO is continually failing to adequately assess every single species that is critical to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, and now fish harvesters and plant workers will suffer as a result of their incompetence,” says FFAW-Unifor Keith Sullivan. “On top of this, the Minister has left the recreational fishery open which is complete slap in the face to those whose incomes are being axed,” he adds.
FFAW-Unifor has been advocating for additional mackerel research for several years, given 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.
“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.
Mismanagement of the mackerel stock has been an ongoing issue for fish harvesters in this province for a number of years. DFO does not have sufficient data on the substantial recreational fishery nor on the impacts of removals of northern contingent, or Canadian, mackerel in US waters. The Union representing fish harvesters has advocated at every opportunity to address incomplete scientific information and unfair stock management plans.
“Our federal government is continually failing the coastal communities of our province. Minister Murray must immediately reverse this decision and instead step up the scientific assessment process so that instead of taking the easy way out, we can manage fisheries based on evidence,” says Sullivan.
FFAW-Unifor will be requesting an urgent meeting with the Minister to discuss the dire consequences the closure of the mackerel fishery will have on both fish harvesters and plant workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.
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Courtney Glode (she/her)