September 13, 2021 – For many years, Newfoundland fish harvesters have reported an abundance of young-of-the-year mackerel or “pencil mackerel”, which are 10 – 20 cm in length and approximately 2 to 4 months old, off the Northeast Coast. As it stands, the larval survey conducted by DFO is done in the southern Gulf and assumes that no significant spawning occurs outside the southern survey area. However, the abundance of these small mackerel elsewhere has led harvesters to question whether they were spawned in the southern Gulf.
As recent as September 10th, 2021, harvesters in the Green Bay area reported beds and beds of these mackerel lined by the shore. Nathan Jones, a harvester in 3K, sent in photos to FFAW of juvenile mackerel 3.5 inches in length that he caught in the area when he was harvesting squid.
“We saw a large abundance of them when we were out at the squid. They would move because of the noise from the longliner, but there was an abundance of these small mackerel in the area.”, Nathan Jones reported. “Last September, we saw bigger mackerel, about 5 or 6 inches in length, but it was later in the month”.
At the virtual advisory meeting on March 30, 2021, FFAW-Unifor representatives presented ample evidence of a strong Atlantic mackerel stock and called on DFO to revise its approach to mackerel science so that a true understanding of the size and migration of the stock can be understood. Last year, DFO closed the commercial Atlantic mackerel fishery on November 10th, 2020, just when a large body of mackerel arrived on the Northeast Coast.
“Harvesters and those who have relied on this fishery missed out on significant income due to the closure, even though it was the most plentiful fish had been in years,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “The massive amounts of mackerel observed over broad regions indicate that DFO science is not adequately measuring the biomass of this stock. This is further evidence that the knowledge and observations of harvesters need to be taken into account by DFO. The Department must formalize a system of harvester participation and input into fisheries management”.