March 2, 2023
ST. JOHN’S, NL – Despite the mountains of evidence and years’ worth of work by inshore fish harvesters and the Union that represents them, the federal meeting to determine the fate of the Atlantic Mackerel Fishery in 2023 has left fish harvesters feeling frustrated and ignored. FFAW-Unifor is calling on Minister Murray to commit to fully investigating the possibility of mackerel spawning along the Northeast coast by conducting an egg survey and a robust sampling program. FFAW-Unifor is also calling on DFO to organize an urgent conference of mackerel harvesters and scientists from other North Atlantic countries to share information on shifting migratory patterns of this highly migratory species.
“DFO continues to entirely disregard what fish harvesters saw on the waters around Newfoundland and Labrador last summer and fall, and even this winter. It’s clear that DFO Science is missing a massive portion of the mackerel biomass and their complete arrogance at the suggestion their data is incomplete needs to be put in check,” says FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle. “DFO Science is not the be-all, end-all of ‘science’, and their severely limited scope and budgets coupled with the recent tendency to lead by environmentalist dogma rather than by evidence is greatly concerning to our members,” Spingle says.
Harvesters are reporting vast quantities of mackerel all around the province, yet DFO Science is adamant that the spawning stock biomass is sinking further into the critical zone with no substantial sign of recruitment since 2015. DFO Science also claims that mackerel spawn almost exclusively in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, however harvesters are seeing young of the year, or pencil mackerel, all along the Northeast coast. This means there must be spawning areas other than the southern Gulf, but DFO refuses to investigate the possibility of alternative spawning grounds.
Next week, the FFAW-Unifor Mackerel Committee will develop a comprehensive set of recommendations for consideration by the Minister as the Union fights to re-open the commercial mackerel fishery in 2023.
“Fish harvesters and this union are not anti-science – that’s not what this is about. But when decisions on whether to open or close fisheries become ideology driven rather than evidence driven, our federal government has clearly lost its way,” concludes FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty.
Visit www.ffaw.ca/mackerel for more information.