November 10, 2021
ST. JOHN’S, NL – Today, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced a closure to the Atlantic Mackerel commercial fishery. The closure comes before many harvesters in NL get access to fish the stock – meaning they are once again excluded from this year’s fishery. FFAW-Unifor is calling on DFO to extend this year’s season to allow those harvesters access to a modest quota of Atlantic Mackerel.
“For several years DFO has ignored stakeholder advise when managing the mackerel fishery, resulting in significant lost opportunities for fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador. Important scientific work must be completed so that the hundreds of harvesters who rely on this fishery can access it,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
Atlantic Mackerel is a transboundary stock, covering both Canadian and US waters. The 2021 quota is half of what it was in just 2019 and is based on incomplete scientific information.
Historically, mackerel has been an important fishery to harvesters in the province. In recent years, the ecosystem has been in transition, with harvesters observing changes in mackerel distribution. For the past five years, Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters have participated in the Atlantic Mackerel Advisory Committee, putting forward observations and historical experiences. However, management and science assessments by DFO does not reflect what harvesters are observing on the water.
Fish harvesters have grown increasingly frustrated in recent years due to the fact that assessments and management plans have not reflected their significant knowledge, particularly on Newfoundland and Labrador’s northeast coast. DFO science surveys and on-the-water observations have been limited and have not addressed the glaring gaps pointed about by harvesters.
“As harvesters, we know that DFO is significantly underestimating the biomass of mackerel. I 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.
Jones, like many others on the northeast coast, will not get equal opportunity to fish mackerel this year due to the quota being caught before the fish fully arrive to his bay.
“Our Union has already undertaken considerable work to better understand the true health of the mackerel stock – the time is long overdue for DFO to follow through on their responsibility,” concludes Sullivan.
For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode at [email protected] or call/text 709-743-4445.